Details regarding a “breakthrough medical discovery” with potential for treating patients with serious bacterial infections were presented on January 11 at the 8th Annual Biotech Showcase in San Francisco, California. Principal investigator Steven Goodman, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State College of Medicine, spoke about a new technology developed by ProclaRx, an Ohio-based biotechnology company, to break down and destroy biofilms.
Biofilms are physical barriers that protect bacteria, preventing antibiotics and the body’s immune system from eradicating chronic infections. According to ProclaRx, bacteria produce a biofilm over time. This biofilm appears as a cloudy covering with the bacteria inside. Infections with biofilms are found in advanced wound care, chronic draining ear infections, and common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) sinusitis. They are highly resistant to antibiotics and have the ability to evade normal defenses against bacteria. Recurrent infections and antibiotic resistance are major clinical and public health problems, with bacterial biofilms implicated in more than 80% of infections, according to ProclaRx.
The ProclaRx platform includes an antibody that binds to proteins in bacterial biofilms. Much like removing a rivet, the ProclaRx biologic pulls the proteins out of the biofilm matrix, causing the matrix to fall apart. The exposed bacteria can then be eradicated. ProclaRx is developing the antibody for potential use as a topical adjunct in the treatment of secretory otitis media as well as in patients with CVID chronic sinusitis (an orphan indication). In addition, the company is developing a wound-care combination device aimed at improving healing by disrupting bacterial biofilms in the wound.
In November 2015, the research institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, accused Trellis Bioscience LLC, a Silicon Valley biotech company, of violating Ohio’s trade secrets law by using Children’s technology –– shared under a confidentiality agreement while discussing a potential partnership –– to develop its own treatments.
Trellis “gained an unfair head start on heading to market after Children’s spent significant time and money developing its technology for hunting vulnerable spots to break down treatment-resistant bacterial ‘slimes,’” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus.
Specifically, Children’s scientists Lauren Bakaletz and Steve Goodman had developed an advanced protein-mapping technique that could be used to locate the best biochemical sequences to target with antibodies.
Trellis Biosciences subsequently founded ProclaRx, developer of the new biofilm-destroying antibody.