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Northern Antibiotics Developing Weapon Against Resistant Bacteria

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Finnish company Northern Antibiotics is working on a new antibiotic molecule, a derivative of polymyxin, that has the potential to become one of the few last-resort weapons against bacteria resistant to all antibiotics now in use. Each year, around 60,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Europe and the U.S., and this number is growing. In addition, antibiotic-resistant bacteria causes prolonged treatments and extended hospital stays for numerous other patients, resulting in increased healthcare costs.

Based on pre-clinical research, the polymyxin derivative, which belongs to the so-called peptide antibiotics, is effective against bacteria that are resistant to carbapenem antibiotics. Until now, carbapenem antibiotics have been used to treat serious infections caused by the so-called super-bacteria resistant to any other antibiotics. Now polymyxins have resurged as the last-resort drugs against extremely multi-resistant strains, even though their nephrotoxicity forces clinicians to administer them at doses that are lower than those required for optimal efficacy.

In the preclinical studies, the polymyxin derivative developed by Northern Antibiotics has been found to be less nephrotoxic than the old polymyxin; the latter fell out of use after the 1960s due to high nephrotoxicity. In addition, high levels of the derivative are excreted into urine which, as compared to the old polymyxin, increases the efficacy and makes it possible to use significantly lower doses in the treatment of urinary tract infections. Thus, also the risks of side-effects decrease in the same proportion.

The hospital use of Northern Antibiotics’ antibiotic derivative is possible already during the 2020s as its development has proceeded to a late preclinical stage.  External funding, on top of the company’s own capital, would take the new antibiotic to a point of start of the first human clinical trials.