Phages point the way to novel targets for antimicrobial drug discovery

September 14, 2003

MONTREAL, QUÉBEC (September 15, 2003): By discovering and exploiting the targets that bacteriophages, or bacterial viruses, attack to inhibit microbial growth, scientists at PhageTech Inc. have identified novel small molecule compounds that effectively kill or inhibit the growth of disease-causing bacteria. The PhageTech researchers presented their work this week at the 43rd Annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), held in Chicago, Illinois.

"Over billions of years of evolution, bacteriophages, or "phages," have selected a variety of unique proteins that enable them to inhibit the growth of and kill bacteria in diverse ways," said Jinzi J. Wu, M.D., Ph.D., Phagetech vice president, R&D - biology. "PhageTech has identified and exploited these phage-derived antimicrobial proteins as tools to discover novel bacterial targets essential to bacterial growth. Subsequent screening against these targets has now identified several small molecule compounds that appear to mimic the phage-derived inhibitory proteins in their antimicrobial effects, and further evaluation and development of these compounds as potential new antibiotics is underway."

PhageTech researchers first used high-throughput phage genomics and functional genomics strategies to sequence the genomes of 43 phages that infect three of the most important human pathogens: Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The scientists then identified the inhibitory proteins produced by these phages, and used them as "bait" to systematically identify the bacterial targets with which the phage proteins interacted. The result was the discovery of a variety of novel bacterial targets that were biologically validated by the phages and shown to be essential to bacterial growth. The researchers are still screening libraries of small molecule compounds against the newly identified targets for drug-like compounds that effectively inhibit or kill bacteria in the same manner as the phage-derived inhibitory proteins.

"By taking advantage of what we have learned from nature, we have developed a technology platform that should enable PhageTech to play an important role in the battle against increasing antibiotic resistance worldwide," said Dr. Wu.

He noted that PhageTech researchers will further define the spectrum of antimicrobial activity for various compounds identified in this manner, as well as evaluate their efficacy against antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. The company is now preparing to evaluate its antimicrobial drug candidates in animals.
About PhageTech
PhageTech is private, venture-backed biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of new classes of antibiotic drugs for novel antibacterial targets, based on its world-leading efforts in phage genomics. By unraveling the genetic code of phages, or bacterial viruses, PhageTech identified antimicrobial proteins used by the phages to kill or stop the growth of bacteria, as well as the specific bacterial targets with which those proteins interact. The company then screens these bacterial targets to identify novel small molecule drugs that mimic the phage proteins' growth inhibitory effects. PhageTech is headquartered in Montreal, Québec. For more information on PhageTech, please contact Pierre Etienne, M.D., president and CEO at 514-332-1008 or visit the company's web site at

Michel Harpin
Director, Business Development

Joan Kureczka
Kureczka/Martin Associates

Kureczka/Martin Associates

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