New antibiotic candidate to tackle deadly bacterial ‘superbugs’

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From discovery to clinic.

Each year in Australia more than 55,000 people are diagnosed with sepsis — when an uncontrollable bacterial infection triggers inflammation throughout the body. If it can’t be managed, sepsis can lead to organ failure. About 8,500 Australians die from sepsis every year. It’s a huge figure, far above the annual road toll and higher than deaths from specific cancers.

Effective antibiotics are a key component of treatment. Without new antibiotics, the world is on track to re-enter the medical dark ages by 2050, that could lead to 10 million people dying every year, and it has a huge economic impact too: antibiotic resistance costs the Australian economy about $700 million a year. It would cost the world up to 100 trillion USD.

A new paper led by Monash researchers and featured on ABC News, describes the exciting ‘concept-to-clinical-trial’ journey of QPX9003, a much-needed novel antibiotic targeting drug-resistant Gram-negative ‘superbugs’. Deemed a global health crisis, Gram-negative bacteria can cause life-threatening infections including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections, peritonitis and meningitis.

QPX9003 is an intravenously-administered synthetic lipopeptide – no new peptide antibiotics have been approved against Gram-negative pathogens since polymyxin B and colistin became available in the late 1950s.

L-R Associate Professor Tony Velkov, Professor Philip Thompson, Professor Jian Li, Dr Kade Roberts, Professor Roger Nation
L-R Ms Emily Gracie, Ms Aira Nuguid, Ms Tina Cardamone, Phenomics Australia Histopathology and Digital Slide Service Unit

The paper, published in Nature Communications is one of the latest outcomes of a long-term relationship between the Phenomics Australia Histopathology node at the University of Melbourne, researchers from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) in collaboration with Qpex Biopharma Inc. (Qpex). It details the research that led to QPX9003 becoming a clinical candidate now in Phase 1 clinical trials.

‘Since 2013, Professor Li and his team have been utilising the unique services offered by the Phenomics Australia Histopathology and Digital Slide service for their antibiotic discovery project. Professor Li approached our node for assistance in the preparation, scoring, and semi-quantitative analysis of kidneys and lungs from mice treated with polymyxin analogues. Due to the success of the collaboration, there have been a number of publications and advancements in drug development for Multidrug-Resistant Organisms 

Prof Janet Keast
Head of the Histopathology and Digital Slide Service Unit at the University of Melbourne

Phenomics Australia Histopathology and Digital Slide Service helps researchers across Australia in analysing histology images and data on genetically modified or treated experimental animals. This service offers the latest in high quality capabilities including: Quality controlled mouse necropsies and tissue preparation, pathological analysis  and scoring of tissues, digital slide scanner capable of producing high quality images, high resolution light microscopy with electronic image capture, specialised staining.

Staff providing this service have extensive histology, diagnostic and electronic imaging experience. Consultant Medical and Veterinary Pathologists are available to provide expert advice.

The Histopathology and Digital Slide Service is based at the Department of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Melbourne.

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