New Approach to Stopping Superbugs

May 13, 2013

The race to stay ahead of drug resistant ‘super bugs’ threatens to be a losing battle.  But a Blacksburg company is working on an innovative solution to the problem. 

Over use of antibiotics is one of the factors, which has led to new strains of super bugs, such as MRSA, the flesh eating bacteria, or a new strains of drug resistant tuberculosis.   These bugs kill one hundred thousand people a year. But as soon as new antibiotics are developed, the bacteria quickly evolve into new forms, staying one step ahead of a cure.  

Joshua Bryson is Chief Scientific Officer at Techulon, a Blacksburg company, which has been working on a completely different approach to beating the super bugs.

“This actually operates on a very fundamental principle of life, the central dogma of molecular biology where DNA goes to RNA, which goes to protein. And what we’ve developed are very specific sequences of nucleic acid, which can stop that process from happening. And because that process is so tantamount to life it s very hard, if not impossible for the bacteria to evolve a resistance mechanism around that," said Bryson.

Bryson says killing the protein inside the bacteria will kill the superbug. Techulon has been awarded the second phase of a grant from DARPA, the federal government’s defense research agency for a four year project, but the company hopes to begin clinical trials in a few years.