Old drugs, new tricks: Rejuvenating antibiotics can overcome resistance, says Helperby

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/EtiAmmos
GettyImages/EtiAmmos
Helperby Therapeutics says it can ‘outsmart’ antimicrobial resistance by rejuvenating old and existing antibiotics to make combination therapies.

Chief scientific officer Anthony Coates said the antibiotic crisis – caused by bacteria building up a resistance to antibiotics – cannot be solved by developing new antibiotics.

“Virtually all antibiotics now have bacteria that are resistant to them and we’re not making antibiotics quick enough to make up for this shortfall,” ​he told us.

Helperby Therapeutics’ Anthony Coates on Antibiotic Resistance Breakers:

“Helperby Therapeutics outsmarts bacteria by using two compounds together, an existing antibiotic and a booster, or ‘breaker’ as we call them. If you think of the bacteria as a football, and you think of an antibiotic as tiny little balls, those little balls get fired into the middle of the bacterium and mess up the machinery in the bacterium and it dies.”

“However, resistant bacteria don’t allow those little balls to enter. The breaker we use, punches holes in the outside of the bacterium and allows the little antibiotic balls to get inside and kill the bacteria. The two act together more effectively than on their own.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever solve the AMR ​[antimicrobial resistance] crisis, because bacteria will become resistant to every antibiotic we throw at them…but I think we can keep modern medicine going by rejuvenating what we’ve got,” ​he added

The British firm is using new ‘booster’ antibiotics – called Antibiotic Resistance Breakers (ARBs) – together with existing antibiotics, which puncture through bacteria cell walls to allow last-resort antibiotics access and combat their targets.

“We put an antibiotic resistant breaker, together with the old antibiotic, and give them both to the patient,” ​said chief scientific officer Anthony Coates.

“Helperby outsmarts bacteria by using two compounds together…one on its own won’t kill, but the two together will,” ​he told us.

Renewables programme

The company’s ARB renewables programme could safeguard antibiotics into the future for 100 years or more, said Coates.

Helperby, which has four new classes of breakers, said if it combines breaker number one with a single old or existing antibiotic, it can rejuvenate the drug.

“We know resistance will arise against it…20 or 30 year later we will have to throw away the resistance breakers,” ​said Coates.

“Then we can come in with the second resistance breaker, and we can rejuvenate that antibiotic for another 20 or 30 years, and so on,” ​he said.

Helperby is testing the effectiveness of its combination therapies for urinary tract infections, intra-abdominal and skin infections in clinical trials.  

The firm is also conducting a preclinical programme to develop a treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Related topics: Delivery formulations, Drug Delivery

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