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Innovative approach for antibiotic development based on a predictive algorithm of membrane permeability of Gram-negative bacteria to the drug under study.


Profile Type
Technology offer
POD Reference
Term of Validity
7 December 2023 - 6 December 2024
Company's Country
Type of partnership
Investment agreementResearch and development cooperation agreement
Targeted Countries
All countries
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General information

Short Summary
A Sardinian research group has developed a predictive algorithm/function (FP) to assess the efficacy of drugs under development to cross the outer membrane (OM) of gram-negative bacteria allowing ranking of their permeability coefficient by evaluating some physicochemical parameters, such as size, net charge and electric dipole. The research group is interested in finding pharma companies or other academics for further developments or technical collaborations.
Full Description
The ability to sequence the bacterial genome has shown hundreds of potential new targets and stimulated pharmaceutical companies to perform high-throughput screening (HTS) that allows the identification of compounds with high efficacy on selected potential targets. However, this approach has high costs and has not facilitated the production of compounds against Gram-negative bacteria in the last decades. Small molecules were identified as very effective against isolated bacterial proteins but, most of these have not proven efficacy against the intact (in-vitro) bacterium. Often, this is caused by the inability of the molecule to penetrate the outer membrane of the bacterial cell. The outer membrane contains water-filled protein channels in its structure, known as porins, which allow the passive permeation of ions and small polar molecules, such as nutrients and products of metabolism. Such channels are the main access for relatively small, water-soluble molecules, including most of the known antibiotics.
Based on the above considerations, the research group exploited the consideration that the mere efficacy of a molecule on the ultimate target is not a sufficient condition for the overall efficacy of the antibiotic. It is also necessary to understand, and predict, the molecular properties that are responsible for its optimal permeation through the porins.
If the permeation of a drug through the outer membrane is high, its overall efficacy will also be high.
The research group developed a novel approach by studying the permeation of classes of antibiotics through molecular dynamics simulations and single-channel electrophysiology measurements, which identified the most important chemical and physical characteristics for efficient permeation. Essentially, the central steric barrier can be compensated by favourable electrostatic interactions, lowering the overall energy barrier to translocation and increasing substrate flux through the protein channel.
Advantages and Innovations
The developed innovation offers an in-silico tool to support the process of new drug discovery and for the optimization of existing drugs due to the higher cost-effectiveness of the method compared to the traditional one.
Specifically, it makes it possible to pre-screen selected compounds from a large library against a specific bacterial channel more efficiently and cost-effectively or to support the optimization phase of a lead compound to improve its permeability through OM before having to deal with synthesis, testing, and related expenses.
Predictions were verified on model systems, with proteoliposome swelling assays, and in-vitro by determining the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) and mortality curves on reference bacterial cultures.
Stage of Development
Under development
Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

Partner Sought

Expected Role of a Partner
The team is seeking partners such as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, development teams of large and medium-sized pharmaceutical companies, investors, and other industry experts interested in contributing to the further stages of development and economic exploitation of the research results achieved.
The research team is also currently working on new applications such as comparing different analogues of an antibiotic lead to guide the optimization phase of drug development, and the identification of nonantibiotic molecular classes with good permeation to be used as vectors to facilitate the uptake by bacteria of potent drugs with low permeability coefficient.
Type and Size of Partner
Big companySME 50 - 249SME 11-49
Type of partnership
Investment agreementResearch and development cooperation agreement

Call details

Coordinator required
IPR description
The team is seeking partners such as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, development teams of large and medium-sized pharmaceutical companies, investors, and other industry experts


Technology keywords
06002009 - Molecular design06001015 - Pharmaceutical Products / Drugs06001018 - Virus, Virology/Antibiotics/Bacteriology06001002 - Clinical Research, Trials06001012 - Medical Research
Market keywords
05007002 - Pharmaceuticals/fine chemicals05005021 - Medical computer sciences05005018 - Medical Physics, Physiology
Targeted countries
All countries