The discovery of plectasin may mark a breakthrough in the biopharmaceutical field. Preliminary results show that the substance can fight pathogenic bacteria which have developed resistance to traditional antibiotics.
One important element of Novozymes' strategy is to use its technological expertise in enzymes and other proteins to move into new business areas, including biopharmaceuticals such as plectasin.
Plectasin is a peptide; peptides, like enzymes, are proteins, and so it makes sense also to use Novozymes' core competences in the search for potential medicines in this connection. Novozymes' greatest advance to date in this area came when researchers discovered a substance called plectasin. The promising research results were published in the renowned international scientific journal Nature in October 2005.
Plectasin is an antimicrobial peptide (AMP), the type of substance which is at the heart of activities in the biopharmaceutical field.
Initial experiments have shown that plectasin can combat bacteria, especially Streptococci, which are resistant to known types of antibiotic. Growing resistance to antibiotics is a major health problem, and so the potential is interesting. This is a new way of fighting bacterial infections, and plectasin appears to have the advantage of it being far more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance to AMPs than to conventional antibiotics.
Found in nature
Plectasin was discovered in a fungus called Pseudoplectania nigrella (ebony cup) found in the pine forests of northern Europe, and the product has since been developed using gene technology. From its research into enzymes, Novozymes has a very large collection of bacterial and fungal strains collected in nature. Researchers search both there and in publicly available databases for substances with possible therapeutic properties. When a suitable substance is found, gene technology is used to create hundreds of thousands of variants, which are then tested and narrowed down to identify one or more with the most promising characteristics.
One common strategy for our activities outside the enzyme area is partnering with other companies. Most of the future research in the development of plectasin is expected to be carried out with a partner, who will typically also be responsible for marketing and sales. Novozymes' experience in fermentation and protein recovery will then be drawn on when the product finally goes into production.
Assuming that a partner is found and the development project runs to plan, plectasin can be expected to enter the market in 2012-2014 at the earliest.