Phase 1 Project
Antibiotics, drugs and biologic agents are essential to fighting disease and infection. But they are costly to manufacture, store and deliver to patients. The same problems exist with animals in agriculture. Antibiotics can also contaminate the environment, leading to antibiotic resistance. Until now, these problems have been seen as an unavoidable consequence of the way the drugs are manufactured and delivered.
Michael Tyers of Université de Montréal and Gerard Wright of McMaster University propose a novel approach to the problem. In a collaborative effort, their teams plan to create a cell-microfactory and delivery system that will eliminate the challenges associated with the use of drugs and antibiotics, radically transforming the way drugs are deployed in both human health and agriculture. They will engineer a non-toxic yeast that is biocompatible with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The yeast will produce any desired bioactive agent, such as a synthetic antibody that neutralizes a bacterial toxin, and will have an embedded safety switch that allows its rapid elimination as needed. Introducing the yeast into a human patient or animal will result in the production of the bioagent, without any need for chemical production, storage or patient delivery. The bioagent will be produced locally in the cell microfactory, thereby eliminating costs associated with conventional manufacturing. Local production and delivery in the gut will be in much smaller amounts than typically needed for whole-body doses of antibiotics and will therefore help mitigate the problem of widespread environmental contamination.
The platform the Tyers and Wright teams are developing has the potential to transform the antibiotic sector, initially for widespread GI infections, but then more generally for virtually any drug that can be biosynthesized and delivered through the GI tract.