The rise of antibiotic-resistant diseases has prompted the development of more powerful drugs. More powerful drugs come with the potential for more powerful side effects or risks — as do current antibiotics.
The antibiotics we use today don't specifically target the harmful bacteria plaguing our bodies when we're ill. Instead, they attack both the good and bad bacteria. As this mechanism is uncontrolled, it has contributed to the increased development of infectious diseases that are immune to the treatments we have at present. Those drug-resistant infections and their sequelae are expected to kill over 10 million people by 2050 if left unchecked.
A French startup company called Eligo Bioscience aims to introduce a new kind of drug, Eligobiotics, that can attack bacteria in a more focused way. The company announced earlier this week it has received $20 million in funding from Khosla Ventures and Seventure Partners, which includes a $2 million award from the Worldwide Innovation Challenge.
Eligobiotics would be designed to carry out specific rather than broad attacks: these could range from killing the harmful bacteria to turning it into a drug producer.
"Antibiotics are weapons of mass destruction: extremely powerful but imprecise," said Eligo CEO Dr. Xavier Duportet in a statement. "With eligobiotics, we can precisely intervene on the microbiome – targeting specific bacteria for interventions of our choice. By engineering the microbiome itself with sniper-like precision, we can address the cause, not just the symptoms, of bacteria-associated diseases."
Taking Advantage of CRISPR
Possibly the most attractive thing about Eligobiotics is how it uses CRISPR — the new method of gene editing — to scan the bacteria and delivery precise cuts to its genetic code to wipe it out completely. In the past, CRISPR has been used to create crops, edit embryos to better understand human development, and could one day cure sickle-cell disease.
If everything goes well — between trial in mice and eventual human trials — Eligobiotics could be taken as a pill instead of an injection.
"This is a bit futuristic, but eventually we envision having a pill that will clean your microbiome daily," Duportet said to Business Insider. "It's the ultimate form of personalized medicine."