Having been extensively used for close to a century, antibiotics are quickly becoming obsolete due to the rapid onset of resistance from various bacteria, raising questions about how the human race will continue to fight multi-drug resistant infections should antibiotics and other antimicrobial therapies eventually fail.
But now, a sixth year Ph.D student and a professor with more than two decades of bionanotechnology experience think they may have found a sustainable replacement that bacteria will not be able to withstand.
Ryan Landis and Professor Vincent Rotello of the University of Massachusetts Amherst have founded Phytos Therapeutics, a company that has created nanoemulsion platforms that stabilizes antimicrobial plant extract-oils in water at a fraction of the cost of antibiotics or antifungals.
More than stabilize, the engineered platforms dramatically enhance the therapeutic activity of these phytochemicals, giving them the ability to eliminate dangerous infections found commonly in hospitals.
The company was recently selected to compete for $65,000 in seed money in the finals of UMass Amherst’s Innovation Challenge.
“This nanotechnology works like antibiotics in the fact that it will kill a broad range of infectious species… but it is far more potent and biocompatible,” Landis told The Buzz. “The emulsions work through a physical disruption of pathogen cell membranes where we have observed no resistance to this mechanism over time. We are modernizing traditional medicine by using a hybridization approach with nanotechnology with hopes of introducing new therapeutic and diagnostic paradigms to fight the dangers of MDR.”
The company is currently planning for two product lines, one in the biomedical sector and the other for agricultural use.
Landis said the solution could be orally consumed or applied to a wide-range of surfaces, including skin to treat infectious wounds, although he hopes to further develop it for other medical uses. The biomedical route is by far the hardest and could take more than a decade and cost millions, he said.
The next step in this process would be to test the product on animals and then down the road are clinical trials. However, Landis said an option might be to sell the biomedical platform to a big player pharmaceutical company before that stage, given the complexity and cost.
The agricultural route is simpler, according to Landis, who said uses in this arena range from replacing antibiotics used in animal feed to enhancing their growth to increasing timber output of key tree species. The agricultural solution Phytos Therapeutics created uses only natural and food-grade ingredients.
There are a lot of avenues Landis and Professor Rotello could pursue with Phyto Therapeutics including licensing the technology, but Landis said he has big plans for the company.
“I have zero interest in creating temporary solutions,” he said. “I want to introduce sustainable paradigms into areas that desperately need them.”
Currently, the company has enrolled in the Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator program but is looking to raise funding to begin animal test trials and bring on an executive officer that has experience with the FDA approval process. If interested in funding the company or applying for the executive position, email firstname.lastname@example.org.