Investing In Research To Develop New Antibiotics

The University Of Queensland's Dr Mark Blaskovich, Principal Investigator and Program Coordinator, speaks with The Capital Network’s Executive Director Lelde Smits about the research collaboration between The University Of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and medical dermatology company Botanix Pharmaceuticals Limited (ASX:BOT).

Lelde Smits: Hello, I’m Lelde Smits for The Capital Network. Joining me at the Centre for Superbug Solutions, here at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland is Dr Mark Blaskovich. Mark, welcome.

Dr Mark Blaskovich: Thank you very much.

Lelde Smits: Mark, could you start by outlining the collaboration between the University of Queensland and Botanix Pharmaceuticals (ASX:BOT)?

Dr Mark Blaskovich: So this collaboration is based on trying to develop a new antibiotic that Botanix has discovered. So, it’s fostered by an Innovation Connections grant from the Australian Government AusIndustry which is designed to develop collaborations between industry and academia.

Lelde Smits: OK, and what’s the significance of the grant from the perspective of the university and also, your next steps?

Dr Mark Blaskovich: Right, so there are significances on a number of different levels and one of the most important is that it demonstrates the university and the Centre for Superbug Solutions’ commitment towards developing translational results that have an impact in the real world by interacting with companies. So we’re not just doing academic level research; we’re working on things that can be applied to people out in the real world.

And, in terms of what we are trying to do next, so Botanix has identified that their active ingredient that they are working with, cannabidiol, has anti-microbial activity. They’ve got some very preliminary results demonstrating that it works at killing bacteria and so what we’re doing is applying our expertise in looking at bacteria and developing antibiotics and trying to see the potential of this compound as a new topical anti-microbial treatment.

Lelde Smits: Now this kind of research, undoubtedly, whenever you’re talking about innovation and new discovery is exciting. What excites you most about what you’re researching?

Dr Mark Blaskovich: So what we’re trying to do is develop new antibiotics and the reason we need to be doing that is bacteria have become resistant to almost all of the current antibiotics that we use. Now, bacterial resistance is nothing new, it’s been around since the first antibiotic was introduced in the 1940s but what is happening now is bacteria are developing more and more resistance against the current antibiotics and we are no longer developing new antibiotics quickly enough to keep ahead of the bacterial resistance.

So, what’s exciting about this program is that it’s completely different type of compound which may have different effects on bacteria and in particular may be able to treat some of the drug-resistant bacteria that are out there now and that’s one of the things that our research program will assess. So, at the Centre for Superbug Solutions, we have a large collection of different types of bacteria; a lot of them are clinical islets that have resistance to varying levels against current antibiotics and so we’ll be able to test the Botanix compound to see if it has efficacy against these types of bacteria, as well as the more standard bacteria that are out there.

Lelde Smits: OK, and that leads me to my final question, your background. You have, of course, been researching for many decades with drug development and discovery. What is the significance, really for yourself, in terms of this collaboration?

Dr Mark Blaskovich: So I’ve been working in trying to develop new antibiotics for about 10 years now, applying my expertise from previous projects, just in general drug discovery. And antibiotics are different from many other drugs,  there a lot of different types of testing you have to do before you can take it into clinical trials and you have to show, predominantly, not only does it kill bacteria but the bacteria don’t really quickly become resistant to it because if that happens, then it becomes ineffective really quickly.

So, one of the most important things that we are looking at in terms of assessing the potential of Botanix’s compound, not only how many different types of bact   eria can it kill but do those bacteria develop resistance to being treated with it.

Lelde Smits: Well Dr Mark Blaskovich, I will certainly be following developments. Thank you for outlining the details of that collaboration between the University of Queensland and Botanix Pharmaceuticals today.

Dr Mark Blaskovich: Thank you for your interest.  




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