NIH Funds Bacterial DNA Superbug Killer

Florida International University awarded nearly $2 million to study potential antibiotic.

The work of Florida International University (FIU) Biomolecular Sciences Institute (BSI) researchers Yuk-Ching Tse-Dinh and Fenfei Leng, covering how bacterial DNA can be used to target and kill highly antibiotic-resistant superbugs, was awarded nearly $2 million in grants by the National Institutes of Health. The funding, announced by the University, will support research that is intended to lead to new therapeutics for treating patients infected with bacteria that is not responsive to current antibiotics.

BSI’s director Tse-Dinh received a four-year $1.3 million grant to advance her work, studying how a targeted enzyme might be employed to interrupt bacterial growth—specifically, said FIU, how the enzyme helps bacterial DNA split and recombine. "We want to kill the bacteria, either by making the enzyme unable to do its work on the DNA structure or by turning the enzyme into an enemy of the cell," she said.

A two-year award, Leng’s $470,000 grant will be used to fund the testing of thousands of chemical compounds using an FIU-developed methodology to more quickly see, said researchers, which ones have the best potential to block a bacterial enzyme, identified as DNA gyrase, and prevent it from functioning correctly and ultimately killing the bug.

According to the CDC, 2 million people in the U.S. are infected each year with bacteria resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics. World health organizations, said FIU, are concerned that not enough new medications are being developed to treat infections like tuberculosis, pneumonia and those in the urinary tract.

Researchers at FIU said the work has the potential to deliver a breakthrough in replacing current antibiotic treatments. "We have already reached all the potentials of current antibiotics targeting this essential enzyme, that's what makes our work more urgent," BSI’s Leng concluded.


Nigel Walker

Mr. Walker is the founder and managing director of That’s Nice LLC, a research-driven marketing agency with 20 years dedicated to life sciences. Nigel harnesses the strategic capabilities of Nice Insight, the research arm of That’s Nice, to help companies communicate science-based visions to grow their businesses. Mr. Walker earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design with honors from London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, England.