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Case studies

Using visualisation to develop more effective antibiotics

The challenge

Developing new drugs is expensive, and time-consuming. Improved understanding of how antibiotic structure affects their function, destroying microbe cells, would help to address these issues of time and cost.

Furthermore, as well as being hampered by antimicrobial resistance, drugs may be less effective if administered by mouth, as they can be degraded by stomach acids.

A means of drug delivery which avoided the stomach would contribute to more effective antibiotics.

The solution

We worked on a project funded by the European Metrology Research Programme (EMRP) looking at measurement for the biomolecular origin of disease, which revealed information that underlies the relationship between bio-molecular structure and function.

The project used high-resolution spectroscopy to visualise where an antibiotic attached to a microbial cell membrane. From this, a new template-based computer model was developed that can accurately identify potential new antimicrobial drugs.

The impact

A team based at Oxford University’s Biochemistry department, in collaboration with Malvern Cosmeceutics Ltd, are applying the results of the project to identify new drug compounds which can be delivered through the skin, bypassing the degradative effects of stomach acid.

Candidate compounds have also been matched to the requirements for delivery via Malvern Cosmeceutics’ innovative Lipodisq® advanced skin penetration system.

Reducing the cost of drug development is critical if we are to encourage more research into the new drugs we need to fight the ever-rising microbial resistance. The template we developed through the EMRP project can help with this, by providing a model of how big data computer modelling can assist and stimulate pharmaceutical research.

Find out more about NPL's Drug discovery services