Phages point the way to novel targets for antimicrobial drug discovery

MONTREAL, QUBEC (September 15, 2003): By discovering and exploiting the targets that bacteriophages, or bacterial viruses, attack to inhibit microbial growth, scientists at PhageTech Inc. have identified novel small molecule compounds that effectively kill or inhibit the growth of disease-causing bacteria. The PhageTech researchers presented their work this week at the 43rd Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), held in Chicago, Illinois.

"Over billions of years of evolution, bacteriophages, or "phages," have selected a variety of unique proteins that enable them to inhibit the growth of and kill bacteria in diverse ways," said Jinzi J. Wu, M.D., Ph.D., Phagetech vice president, R&D biology. "PhageTech has identified and exploited these phage-derived antimicrobial proteins as tools to discover novel bacterial targets essential to bacterial growth. Subsequent screening against these targets has now identified several small molecule compounds that appear to mimic the phage-derived inhibitory proteins in their antimicrobial effects, and further evaluation and development of these compounds as potential new antibiotics is underway."

PhageTech researchers first used high-throughput phage genomics and functional genomics strategies to sequence the genomes of 43 phages that infect three of the most important human pathogens: Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The scientists then identified the inhibitory proteins produced by these phages, and used them as "bait" to systematically identify the bacterial targets with which the phage proteins interacted. The result was the discovery of a variety of novel bacterial targets that were biologically validated by the phages and shown to be essential to bacterial growth. The researchers are still screening libraries of small molecule compounds against the newly identified targets for drug-like compounds that effectively inhibit or k

Contact: Joan Kureczka
Kureczka/Martin Associates

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