University of Pennsylvania chemist William DeGrado is an "artist" when it comes to creating new proteins, says Robert Langreth at Forbes' Treatments blog. His goal is to create new molecules not found in nature that can serve humanity by absorbing environmental toxins and fighting cancer, among other things, Langreth says. But while the more complicated applications of his work are years away, DeGrado's research could have immediate implications for the creation of new antibiotics to fight virulent strains of drug-resistant bacteria. "Scientists have known for decades that organisms as diverse as insects, frogs, pigs and humans make natural protein-based antibiotics to ward off microbes," Langreth says. "Drugmakers have tried to bottle their power, but the compounds, known as antimicrobial peptides, have proven to be poor drugs." Using supercomputer simulations, DeGrado has created new antibiotics that mimic natural ones, but are easier to produce. One such antibiotic is now in trials at biotech firm PolyMedix, Langreth says, and has shown to be as powerful as vancomycin in animal trials.
Feb 02, 2011