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The Search for Naturally Sourced Antibiotics

30 JAN 2014
Career Path : Healthcare

This week, the AAPS blog looks at our increased dependence on antibiotics and how their overuse is encouraging a proliferation of “super-bugs.” Many infections are treated with antibiotics unnecessarily, which encourages viruses to develop resistance and wipes out “good” illness-fighting bacteria present in our own bodies. The World Health Organization considers resistant super-bugs a pressing issue of global concern that could return us to the pre-antibiotic era, and render many infections untreatable and uncontrollable.  In response to the impending crisis, Sanofi has entered into a new collaborative relationship that may help further the discovery of naturally-sourced antibiotics. The blog post, Sanofi Collaborates to Find Naturally Sourced Antibiotics, explains that


in our zeal to wipe out bacteria we have given the invaders precisely what they need to mutate and adapt – resulting in ever-more resistant strains that have rendered many of our stand-by drugs quite powerless. Antibiotic over-use has made bacteria stronger, while our ability to formulate more effective alternatives continues to decline. This is why Sanofi, partnered with leading clinical research organization Fraunhofer-Gesellschafst, is going grass-roots – looking to nature for antibacterial chemicals and compounds to fight off the new super-bug invasion.


In recent years, Big Pharma has grown less interested in developing new drugs, directing focus instead to the re-application of known compounds. R&D is expensive and risky, and although there is a growing need for new antibiotics, most drug companies are investing resources elsewhere. Sanofi, however, has been developing naturally-sourced drugs since the 1960s – drugs like rifampicin, for treating tuberculosis, and teicoplanin, used for severe infections in hospitals.  They draw inspiration from the development of penicillin, originally derived from natural compounds, hoping to make their own 21st century, groundbreaking discoveries.