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Scientific Transfer

ABAC Therapeutics and the University of Santiago de Compostela advance in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

  • A public-private partnership agreement facilitates the creation of a joint unit for the screening and discovery of new antimicrobial agents.
  • Multidrug-resistant bacteria cause 39,000 deaths a year in Europe and the WHO estimates that by 2050 they will be the leading cause of death worldwide.

Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are currently one of the biggest global health problems, in terms of mortality, social and economic impact1 . Multidrug-resistant bacteria cause 1.27 million deaths per year and the World Health Organisation estimates that by 2050 they will be the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming more than 10 million lives annually. The reason is that the same antibiotics that have helped save millions of lives in past decades are no longer effective against these bacteria.

Pharmacological research, therefore, is facing the challenge of providing, with the utmost urgency, new antibiotics that are effective in treating this type of infections and that are also affordable for the population as a whole. In view of this situation, the Innopharma Drug Discovery Platform, part of the Singular Centre for Research in Molecular Medicine and Chronic Diseases (CiMUS) of the University of Santiago de Compostela, has reached an agreement with the company ABAC Therapeutics, dedicated to antibiotic research, to join forces in the search for new therapeutic solutions.

Specifically, both entities have agreed to create a joint unit that will allow, with maximum efficiency and cost optimisation, the screening of compound collections, with the aim of identifying future antimicrobials that are active against resistant bacteria.

Bacterial resistance to the arsenal of currently available antimicrobial agents poses one of the greatest global health threats facing humanity in the 21st century. "The so-called silent pandemic has no borders.  Multidrug-resistant bacteria cause 39,000 deaths a year in Europe. In addition, this very serious human catastrophe has a major social and economic impact, amounting to around 1.5 billion euros per year in Europe alone2," says Domingo Gargallo-Viola, director of ABAC Therapeutics.

Bacteria become resistant due to their ability to mutate and adapt in response to adverse conditions, including the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, allowing some bacteria to escape their effect, complicating the treatment of increasingly common and clinically difficult to manage infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, septicaemia and gonorrhoea.

"There is an urgent need to discover and develop new classes of antibiotics in the face of resistance, and we want to screen multiple collections of compounds to identify new drugs against resistant bacteria. Only a strategy based on the medium and long term can provide an answer to this serious global health problem," says Mabel Loza, director of CiMUS and the Innopharma platform.


Maximum safety for a global health challenge

In order to do research with live pathogenic microorganisms, pharmacologists are obliged to work with these resistant bacteria. This requires a laboratory with maximum safety conditions, in which these dangerous microorganisms are handled with professional knowledge and technical safety. In the new collaborative unit, ABAC Therapeutics has the appropriate facilities and experience in working with resistant bacteria. For its part, the Innopharma platform has the unique experience and infrastructure in Spain for the fully automated management of millions of compounds.

The collaborative unit between ABAC Therapeutics and the Innopharma-USC Platform is therefore a strategic opportunity to address the challenge of identifying new compounds effective against these organisms, and to provide new therapeutic solutions for patients infected by pathogens resistant to current antibiotics.

This pioneering unit is a benchmark in Europe, and opens the door to the incorporation of new collaborators, to synergistically and efficiently promote the urgent search for antimicrobials to combat this global silent pandemic, ensuring the accessibility of these new treatments to all those who need them.


About ABAC Therapeutics

The company was established in 2014 with the aim of discovering and developing new antibacterial agents with a new perspective focused on precision medicine. Research is focused on the discovery of antibiotics with specific activity against pathogenic bacteria. ABAC's goal is to bring great value to society by reducing the detrimental clinical and economic impact of the selection of multi-resistant bacteria that arise as a consequence of today's indiscriminate and non-specific use of antibiotics.

The ABAC Therapeutics team is developing an innovative and disruptive project with a clear objective: to add value and improve people's quality of life through a pharmacological strategy based on a new algorithm that enables the discovery of specific antibacterials capable of effectively combating infections caused by bacteria that are multiresistant to available antibiotics.


About the USC Innopharma-CiMUS Platform

The Innopharma drug screening and pharmacogenomics platform is a High Capabilities Platform of the European research infrastructure consortium ERIC EU-OPENSCREEN. It has a set of cutting-edge technological capabilities that efficiently cover the different stages of the drug discovery process, allowing the team to develop projects in public-private collaborations, in which 17 drugs have reached clinical trials in humans.
In the specific case of the joint unit with ABAC Therapeutics, in addition to this successful professional experience, it provides fully automated equipment, unique in Spain for the handling and management of millions of compounds. Part of these new technologies have recently been incorporated into the Innopharma Platform thanks to a collaboration agreement between the University of Santiago de Compostela and the Galician Innovation Agency for the updating and expansion of the Innopharma Platform, through the REACT-EU Fund within the Galicia ERDF Operational Programme 2014-2020. 
It is located at the Singular Centre for Research in Molecular Medicine and Chronic Diseases (CiMUS), a centre of the University of Santiago de Compostela, a reference in translational research and transfer.



(1) World Health Organization fact  sheets…  
(2). Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis. The Lancet January 19, 2022. DOI: