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Trana Discovery Identifies New Antibiotic for Fatal Bacteria

By Jeremy Summers, NCBiotech Writer

Cary-based drug discovery company Trana Discovery announced today that it has identified a target for the development of new antibiotics for infections caused by hospital-acquired Gram-negative bacteria, which are often fatal.

Trana Discovery, which is one of four N.C. companies presenting at Mid-Atlantic Bio in Bethesda, MD next week, is a portfolio company of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. NCBiotech awarded the company a $35,000 Small Business Research Loan earlier this year.

The discovery will allow Trana to develop an assay to identify compounds that are able to treat Gram-negative infections without harming the beneficial bacteria found in the gastrointestinal tract. In its press release, the company said that the discovery “represents a major advance for the discovery of novel antibacterial agents to combat Gram-negative infections.”

Hospitals, and more specifically, Intensive Care Units, are unique environments that contain a wide range of harmful bacteria. Some infections, like those caused by Gram-negative bacteria, can be fatal. Due to the cell wall structure of these bacteria, as well as their increasing resistance to antibiotics, current treatment relies heavily on older antibiotics that have unwanted side effects, including harming beneficial bacteria such as gut flora, which aid in digestion and other functions. Other adverse side effects include antibiotic-associated diarrhea, further resistance pressure and C. difficile infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 1.7 million hospital-associated infections, from all types of bacteria combined, cause or contribute to 99,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. In Europe, hospital-acquired Gram-negative infections are estimated to account for more than 16,000 deaths each year.

The company’s discovery comes from analyzing transfer RNA (tRNA), which is responsible for the body’s ability to synthesize new proteins. When infection occurs, the tRNA binds the pathogen to these proteins. Compounds that can disrupt this binding, like those that Trana discovers, have the potential to be developed into antibacterial drugs, which can treat a wide range of illnesses, including infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria.

"The most troublesome Gram-negative bacteria share a common piece of tRNA that can be exploited in the development of new antibiotics that ultimately can save lives,” said Mike Ossi, M.D., chief scientific officer of Trana Discovery.

The proprietary technology that allows Trana Discovery to discover potential antibiotic treatments for Gram-negative bacterial infections can also be applied to other infectious diseases. Trana is looking into potential treatments for chronic diseases such as HIV, bacterial diseases caused by multi-drug resistant strains, and resistant fungal diseases.  The company has also recently discovered unique tRNAs that will enable it to begin identifying compounds that could treat community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections while minimizing adverse side effects.

About Trana Discovery

Trana Discovery provides a proprietary drug discovery technology platform that enables its partners to discover new treatments for bacterial, viral, and fungal infectious diseases. The company’s high-throughput assays screen vast libraries of compounds to identify potential drug candidates that work through a novel mechanism of action: the inhibition of the target pathogen’s ability to use organism-specific transfer RNA (tRNA), essential for propagation. Founded in 2001, Trana Discovery has over sixteen patents issued or pending. 

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