The joint search for new antibiotics


It is antimicrobial resistance (AMR) awareness week. AMR is a major threat for public health. Worldwide, researchers are looking for drugs that can slow down or even reverse resistance emergence. 

The search for new antibiotics often starts in the world of universities, knowledge institutes, spin-offs and small biotech companies. Here, researchers identify new biological molecular structures and signalling pathways that might be targeted by future drugs. However, they often do not have the possibilities and resources to translate these new antimicrobial targets to compounds that can be further developed into new drugs.

Bridging the innovation gap

The European Lead Factory (ELF) was established to bridge this so-called ‘innovation gap’. The ELF platform accelerates drug research by giving researchers from academia and SMEs access to a unique compound library and state-of-the-art screening facilities. Using ultra high-throughput screening (uHTS) it is possible to quickly find compounds that affect the biological target of the researcher. The ELF platform has a large collection of now >500,000 high quality compounds that are made available by industrial partners, complemented by compounds that are developed by ELF partners.

ELF antibiotics portfolio

A quarter of the ELF portfolio – 22 of the 88 projects – focuses on infectious diseases. Twelve of these projects specifically identify compounds against bacterial infections, of which several focus on different proteins involved in the resistance mechanism behind AMR. These potential new drugs might restore the effectiveness of penicillin and other β-lactams. One of these projects is run by the research group of Prof Chris Schofield (University of Oxford). Read more about their research on gram negative bacteria to bypass resistance against β-lactam antibiotics and the role of EU Lead Factory. Another example is the project run by Dr Monika Schütz and Jonas Malte Schweers (Tübingen University Hospital and the Interfaculty Institute of Microbiology and Infection Medicine Tübingen). They study multi-resistant gastrointestinal pathogens and submitted one of their targets to the EU Lead factory. Read more about their progress.