Local researchers work to combat superbug

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States dies from a superbug that has outsmarted antibiotics—that’s according to the CDC.

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Researchers at Techulon in Blacksburg at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center have just received the funding they need to begin the first stages of a clinical drug trial to try to combat these diseases.

They are working to be part of the worldwide solution for treating antibiotic resistant infections that are killing thousands of people each year.

“Now we’re seeing where antibiotics are beginning to fail in solving these infectious disease problems and the death rate is beginning to rise as a result,” said Techulon’s CEO Bud Thompson.

According to the CDC, about 35,000 people die because of these superbugs every year. That’s why Techulon’s team is excited to be at the cutting edge of research because they’re studying a new class of antibiotics to combat them.

“That’s why we refer to our drug as an anti-microbial instead of an antibiotic because we’re able to target pathogens other than just bacteria,” Thompson said.

When people go to the hospital for treatments that compromise their immune systems, they are more susceptible to catching these superbugs.

With each test at Techulon, they work to find genes within the pathogen that are essential for it to function. They plan to develop this drug to target that gene and knock it out.

“We think that’s very beneficial from a healthcare facility standpoint because it promotes stewardship so you’re only using the drug that needs to be used to kill the pathogen of interest so it’s the right drug for the right disease,” Thompson said.

CARB-X, a global non-profit working to accelerate antibacterial research, will allot up to $785,000 for this first round of funding to Techulon. That will last through May of 2020 as long as they continue to meet the milestones required for research. CARB-X will continue to fund through the first phase of clinical trials, which could be nearly five years from now.

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