By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2015 The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Discovering and bringing a new drug to market is not for the faint of heart.
But when the challenge is as big as fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the scientist is as intrepid as Dr. Anne Pereira, amazing results can prevail.
Dr. Pereira, the scientific founder of Biolytx Pharmaceuticals and Dean of the Graduate College and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), has been working nearly three decades on fighting gram-negative Pseudomonas.
These insidious bacteria, which are present all around us, generally don’t cause trouble for healthy people. Instead, they like to attack folks who are sick or weakened–burn victims, cancer patients, premature babies, or folks in intensive care, just to name a few.
Many of these bacteria have become antibiotic-resistant. Further, these clever and sneaky bugs remember the antibiotics they’ve resisted before, so new versions of old drugs lose their infection-fighting effectiveness fast.
Biolytx Pharmaceuticals has a novel new drug developed from a peptide (a small part of a protein) that is created by the human body. Bacteria haven’t seen these drugs before, which means that Biolytx’ drugs could wipe out certain infections that are anti-biotic resistant today.
Biolytx is approaching what could be the final stretch of pre-clinical testing, leading to an Investigational New Drug (IND) application, which is the FDA’s precursor to Phase I and II clinical trials.
“I feel we are on a very solid footing toward developing a new class of therapeutic antibiotics,” said Dr. Pereira. “This peptide acts naturally in the body to destroy bacteria. Our drug is toxic toward bacteria; as it came out of a human cell originally we believe it will have low toxicity in humans.”
Biolytx is a great example of how to spin out groundbreaking science from Oklahoma’s outstanding research institutions into Oklahoma-based startups that can solve big problems in the real world.
Dr. Pereira achieved more than $6 million in non-dilutive grants to fund this research, including $1.8MM in EDGE funding through OCAST. Biolytx’s senior management team includes executives with significant experience in advancing medical therapeutics to market successfully.
The firm has narrowed up its potential markets to target first trials at topical applications. The basic research has been validated internally and by independent sources. The team has proven that the peptide can be synthesized and produced in quantity. All of these milestones position the company to attract investment capital to carry it through clinical trials.
We believe in Dr. Pereira and the executive team. We believe in the science and the Biolytx’ business model.
We also believe Dr. Pereira when she says, “State backing of biotech is so important. OCAST and i2E—and the EDGE grants have helped our company get to where we are.”
Biolytx and the groundbreaking new science it is advancing proves the case for state investment in the bioscience industry. We just need to do more, not less.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? Each year drug-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people nationwide and kill at least 23,000. Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).