At the moment the world is at war. But this is not an ordinary war. It's a struggle with an organism so small that we can only see it with a microscope – and if we don't stop it, it could kill millions of us in the next few decades. No, I am not talking about COVID-19, although this organism is currently on everyone's lips. I'm talking about antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
You see, last year more than 700,000 people died of bacterial infections worldwide – 35,000 of them in the United States. If we do nothing, according to a United Nations report, that number could increase to 10 million a year by 2050.
The problem? Excessive use of antibiotics in the doctor's office or in animal husbandry and agriculture. We have used many medications over the years to kill all bad bacteria – but it only killed most, not all, bad bacteria. And as the famous line by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park says: "Life finds a way."
Enter Felix, a biotech startup in the latest Y Combinator batch that believes it has a novel approach to keeping bacterial infections at bay – viruses.
At a time of widespread concern about the corona virus, it seems strange to see every virus in a good light, but as co-founder Robert McBride explains, Felix The key technology enables him to target his virus to specific locations on bacteria. This not only kills the bad bacteria, but can also stop their ability to develop and become resistant again.
However, the idea of killing bacteria with a virus is not necessarily new. Bacteriophages or viruses that can "infect" bacteria were first discovered by an English researcher in 1915, and commercialized phage therapy began in the 1940s in the United States by Eli Lilly and Company. At about this point, antibiotics came and Western scientists simply never seemed to be exploring the therapy.
However, since too few new solutions are offered and the standard drug model does not work effectively against the situation, McBride believes that his company can put phage therapy back in the foreground.
Felix has already tested his solution on a first group of 10 people to demonstrate his approach.
"We can develop therapies in less time and for less money than traditional antibiotics because we target orphan indications and already know that our therapy can work in humans," McBride told theinformationsuperhighway . "We argue that our approach to re-sensitizing bacteria to conventional antibiotics could be first-line therapy."
Felix plans to use his treatment first on patients with cystic fibrosis, as there is no cure for this disease, which tends to require an almost constant stream of antibiotics to fight lung infections.
The next step will be to conduct a small clinical trial with 30 people. Then, since the scientific research and development model is typically used, a larger human study is carried out before applying for FDA approval. McBride hopes, however, that its viral solution will prove useful in time to support the upcoming surge in antibiotic resistance.
"We know that the challenge against antibiotics is big now and will only get worse," said McBride. “We have an elegant technological solution to this challenge and we know that our treatment can work. We want to contribute to a future in which these infections will not kill more than 10 million people a year, a future we can look forward to. "