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A glimpse of hope in tackling antibiotic resistance

MRSA NIAID and Pål Rongved AdjuTec
Start-up company AdjuTec’s novel antibiotic resistance breakers may help to facilitate reduced use of antibiotics. If there is one positive thing about the COVID-19 pandemic, it could perhaps be our increased awareness of infectious diseases. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a mind-opener to society’s vulnerability for infectious diseases in general. This includes the importance of having a well-equipped tool-box with antibiotics and adjuvants to keep antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at bay,” says Pål Rongved, professor at the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Oslo (UiO) and CEO/CSO of AdjuTec Pharma. The company focuses on developing adjuvant products to be combined with antibiotics to protect them against bacteria antibiotic resistant enzymes. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a mind-opener to society’s vulnerability for infectious diseases in general. This includes the importance of having a well equipped tool-box with antibiotics and adjuvants to keep antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at bay.” “If vaccine programs soon will take society back to “normal”, development of our lead product, APC148, will not be negatively affected. On the contrary, we see that viral pandemic patients often suffer from bacterial secondary lung infections. If these infections resist treatment with marketed antibiotics, this is an opportunity to help with our technology.” Novel antibiotic resistance breakers AdjuTec began as an oncology project in 2009, but the substances studied early on showed remarkable effects in hundreds of resistant bacterial strains, describes Rongved. At first the research project was funded by private (e.g., Novo Nordisk) and public grants (e.g., the Norwegian Research Council), supporting the preclinical studies. In order to attract further funding, with help from Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Rongved and coworkers decided to establish AdjuTec Pharma in 2019. “It was necessary to establish a team to drive development of the company forward,” says Rongved. “New antibiotics nearly always suffer from bacteria developing resistance mechanisms for protection. Initial studies do not indicate that this is the case with APC148, possibly because it has no effect on the bacteria itself, only on their defense enzymes." The company’s vision is to develop and provide a platform of novel antibiotic resistance breakers in order to retain efficacy and facilitate reduced use of antibiotics. Their lead product, a metallo-β-lactamase resistance breaker, APC148, inactivates bacterial resistance enzymes, making the bacteria sensitive to traditional antibiotics again. In more detail, it destroys vital bacterial carbapenem-resistance mechanisms (beta-lactamases) and prevents the bacteria from defending themselves against the antibiotic. Zinc-containing enzymes, the metallo-β-lactamases (MBLs), are emerging as the most alarming resistance mechanisms. There are currently no marketed, clinically efficient available ag
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