AvidBiotics Creates Novel Proteins that Kill Bacteria on the Farm, in the Lab, in the Body

9/21/10Follow @xconomy

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developed to treat people who have gotten infected with the pathogen.

By leading with the food safety application, AvidBiotics is hoping to clear regulatory hurdles from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FDA in about 18 to 24 months—a far less arduous pathway than it would encounter through the drug development route. And once that product reaches the market, it will help finance further development of the antibiotic treatment.

AvidBiotics’ anti-E. coli compounds have already shown that they can prevent infections, and treat active infections, in rabbit models, Martin says. Certain non-specific chemicals can be sprayed on beef or vegetables today to fight bacteria, but AvidBiotics is banking on a couple key advantages. As a biodegradable protein, the new treatment has an environmental advantage. And by being specifically tailored for the bad bug, and leaving the rest of bacteria to do their thing in nature, the AvidBiotics approach doesn’t cause “collateral damage” against good bacteria, Martin says.

Besides going after E. coli, the AvidBiotics founders are working on programs to target specific bugs that cause all kinds of trouble for the healthcare system. One is pseudomonas, and another is clostridium difficile, or “C. diff.” Another niche idea, believe it or not, is a targeted treatment for Yersinia pestis, otherwise known as the bubonic plague, which the U.S. government just might want to stockpile for biodefense purposes, Martin says.

Really pursuing any of these options is going to take some serious time, money, and help from partners.

Martin and Knighton have all kinds of experience, which might lead them to think this is all pie in the sky. But once Martin got going he sounded almost like he was back in graduate school, on the cusp of the early biotech wave. He pointed out that the National Institutes of Health is pouring millions into a Human Microbiome Project that is seeking to catalog the vast diversity of bacteria. Over time, it could help scientists determine whether pathogens could be the hidden culprits at work in certain forms of diabetes, cancer, obesity, and arthritis. Having super-specific proteins that can be made to knock out certain bugs in a laboratory could be a useful enabling tool for this scientific journey, he says. “It’s all really quite amazing what’s happening now,” Martin says.

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