Many of the most powerful antibiotics have lost their efficacy against dangerous bacteria, so finding new antibiotics is a priority.
It’s too soon to say for sure if the young researchers are right, but if gumption and enthusiasm count for anything, they stand a fighting chance.
I met Zach Rosenthal, Christian Choe and Maria Filsinger Interrante in the lower level of the Shriram Center for Bioengineering & Chemical Engineering on the campus of Stanford University.
Filsinger Interrante just graduated from Stanford and is now in an M.D./Ph.D. program. Rosenthal and Choe are rising seniors.
Last October, Stanford launched a competition for students interested in developing solutions for big problems in health care. Not just theoretical solutions, but practical, patentable solutions that could lead to real products.
The three young scientists thought they had figured out a way to make a set of proteins that would kill antibiotic resistant bacteria.
They convinced a jury of Stanford faculty, biotech types and investors that they were onto something, and got $10,000 to develop their idea.
“And we want to see if our proteins are more effective at killing these resistant bacteria than what’s currently available,” says Filsinger Interrante.
Choe says there’s a reason industry hasn’t solved the antibiotic crisis.
“Big pharmaceutical companies aren’t that interested in pursuing antibiotics,” he says, “largely because the market size is small, and because bacteria develop resistance relatively quickly.”
But these young entrepreneurs think they’ve licked the resistance problem.
“The way that our proteins operate, that if the bacteria evolve resistance to them, actually the bacteria can no longer live anymore,” says Rosenthal. “We target something that’s essential to bacterial survival.”
Bacteria have managed to evolve a way around even the most sophisticated attempts to kill them, so I was curious to know more about how the proteins these young inventors say they’ve found worked.
“We’re not able to …