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Professor Anthony Coates and Dr Yanmin Hu have adopted an innovative approach to rejuvenate antibiotics rendered ineffective by resistance.

While most antibiotics target actively proliferating cells, Professor Anthony Coates and Dr Yanmin Hu instead focused on quiescent or non-multiplying cells. Although dormant, such cells are metabolically active and can seed new populations of proliferating cells, lengthening the period of time over which antibiotics must be given. Critically, they are relatively insensitive to the effects of antibiotics.

An illustration describing how new antibiotic resistance breakers can create new antibiotics.

Professor Coates and colleagues developed an agent, HT61, specifically to kill non-multiplying bacteria by destabilising the bacterial cell membrane. Although effective on its own, it was also found to enhance the efficacy of several other antibiotics. Through the spinout company Helperby Therapeutics Group, a suite of ‘antibiotic resistance breakers’ have been developed. In 2013, Helperby signed an agreement with the Indian pharmaceutical company Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd to continue development and clinical testing of its compounds. Several clinical trials have been launched to assess various antibiotic combinations, for systemic and topical use against multidrug-resistant Gram-positive and Gram-negative infections.


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