Dr. Chee Seng Hee

Biozentrum
University of Basel
Klingelbergstrasse 50 / 70
CH - 4056

Biozentrum, Room 681
Phone: +41 61 207 23 48
Email: cheeseng.hee-at-unibas.ch

Dr. Christoph Schmutz

Biozentrum
University of Basel
Klingelbergstrasse 50 / 70
CH - 4056

Biozentrum, Room 681
Phone: +41 61 207 23 48
Email: christoph.schmutz-at-unibas.ch

Therapeptix

Therapeptix

Biofilms are bacterial communities which cause chronic pneumonia in patients with cystic fibrosis. The CTI funded study «Therapeptix» aims to develop a drug to combat biofilms.

P. aeruginosa are forming a biofilm, protecting them from antibiotic treatment. Picture: T. Jaeger

Bacteria often surround themselves in a protective coating and form a so-called biofilm. These bacteria pose a problem when they accumulate in the lungs of patients with the hereditary disease cystic fibrosis. Colonization by the biofilm forming bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes chronic pneumonia, which permanently damages the lung tissue of these patients.

Developing a drug to combat biofilms

The goal of the feasibility study «Therapeptix», supported by the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI), is the development of a novel drug to fight P. aeruginosa biofilms in patients with cystic fibrosis. Due to a genetic defect viscous mucus is produced in the lungs of these patients. It provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria to colonize and form dangerous biofilms, which protect the bacteria from the action of antibiotics. 

In bacteria, biofilm formation is controlled by several signaling pathways.  The potential medication, a peptide, actively interferes with these pathways thus impeding biofilm development. This renders the pathogen vulnerable to antibiotic treatment.

Peptide with therapeutic potential

This peptide has emerged from research in the groups of Prof. Tilman Schirmer and Prof. Urs Jenal and will now be further developed for the therapeutic use in patients. Furthermore, such peptide drugs could also be applied in the future to combat biofilms on implants, in catheters or medical devices and help to reduce the number of nosocomial infections.