Bacterial persisters are a “dormant” subpopulation of cells that are tolerant or unresponsive to antibiotic treatment which can lead to chronic recurrent infection. This subpopulation of non-growing bacteria can remain in a state of low metabolism for weeks or months in persistently infected patients, only to later “awaken,” often in a more aggressive form. High persisters of Pseudomonas aeruginosa for example are selected in patients with cystic fibrosis and some nosocomial diseases.
When a population is treated with an antibiotic, regular cells die, whereas persisters survive. In order to kill, antibiotics require active targets, which explains persisters tolerance.
This phenomenon is different from resistance mechanisms that arises due to the overuse of antibiotics. Not only in human health also because of its use in agriculture and aquaculture contributes to the emergence of resistant bacteria and their spread to humans as those antibiotics ends up in the waste, water and human food.
Microbial persisters can cause recurrent or intractable infections, causing chronic infections carrying an increasing clinical burden. Our drug candidate Ol20-01 has shown unique biological activity, able to eliminate persistent bacteria. We aim at curing patients suffering from chronic infections and that suffer from many infectious relapses.
Why looking in the sea ?
Marine molecules remain untapped sources for the discovery of new anti-infectives due to the richness of pharmacophores (molecular features that are necessary for molecular recognition by a biological macromolecule). Indeed marine organisms represent a largely unexplored source for new marine valuable pharmacological products. These molecules have diverse structural complexities with chemical features and biological specificities that have been driven by a competitive environment that promote evolutionary development of species and may be the driving force for the production of these interesting molecules.
Many approaches exist do develop new molecules. At Olgram we focus on exploring new natural yet undiscovered resources in the Oceans as we are persuaded that there is still a tremendous potential and this approach has proven to be a wealthy source of medicines.