Next in the IndieBio EU interview series is Prospective Research. Prospective Research are working to revolutionize the world of antibiotic discovery.
Antibiotic resistance, this is one of the many problems facing the society today. Bacteria are constantly becoming immune to more antibiotics. This means that fewer antibiotics can be used to treat infections. This problem is constantly growing worse. Combine this with the fact that there has been a decrease in the numbers of new antibiotics being discovered and it’s easy to see how humanity is facing a crisis.
Thankfully, Dakota Hamill and Jake Cotter from Prospective Research are working to overcome this problem. Prospective Research are revolutionizing the outdated world of antibiotic discovery by talking to bacteria using signaling molecules and by creating the first ever crowdsourced antibiotic discovery platform.
I recently met with Dakota and Jake to learn more about the innovative work they do.
John Fehilly: Who are Prospective Research, and what is your goal?
Dakota Hamill: We are two crazy kids looking to save lives… one bag of dirt at a time.
JF: What was your inspiration for taking part in this accelerator?
Jake Cotter: Our inspiration is desperation; the world is running out of new and effective antibiotics. We have been researching antibiotic discovery for the better part of 5 years. We started in our parents’ basement, spent all of our savings and quit our jobs because we knew that what we were doing could change the world. This accelerator gave us the chance to bring what we love and have been working on to life.
JF: How can the public get involved in your research?
DH: It’s easy; just send us a sample of your dirt! Over 70% of our antibiotics have come from organisms that live in the soil.
Join our worldwide community of bioprospectors searching for new antibiotics by ordering one of our MicrobeMiner Kits. Everyone who buys a kit adds a unique sample of dirt to our pipeline that may house the next blockbuster antibiotic. Come and get your hands dirty!
JF: What do you do with the dirt after it has been collected?
JC: We essentially use robots and your dirt to save lives. As soon as your sample arrives, we use an automated screening system that can process thousands of organisms from multiple samples at the same time. From there, we take the most promising organisms from each kit and talk to them! This sounds crazy, but in essence, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Our platform uses the chemical language of bacteria to force them to produce novel antibiotics.
JF: Does the public’s involvement end after they send off their sample of dirt?
JC: Not at all! In fact, their journey is just beginning. Once we get their sample they will receive a custom profile where they can view their dirt as it goes through the discovery process. We provide pictures of the microbes living in their sample, genetic information, and assay scores showing if their sample is producing antibiotics. If a new antibiotic comes from your sample, you share in the rewards.
JF: When can the public begin to take part?
DH: We will be launching a kickstarter at the end of July. To get the inside scoop, sign up for our newsletter here.
JF: Do you think your company will yield completely new antibiotics?
DH: Yes we do! A major problem with mining for new antibiotics in the dirt is that once you take microbes out of their natural environment, they often stop producing antibiotics. Our platform is able to solve this problem by mimicking signals from the organism’s natural environment and forcing them to produce antibiotics on demand. This gives us access to a completely untapped reservoir of novel antibiotics.
JF: How long will it take between taking a soil sample and potentially finding a new antibiotic?
JC:The entire process from initial soil sample to a compound that we can license to a pharmaceutical company is around two to three years. But, during that time you will have direct access to where your sample stands in our pipeline. Within the first month of us receiving your sample, you will have a custom profile where you can follow your sample through the entire journey.
JF: What has been the highlight of the accelerator so far?
JC: Nailing our proof of concept felt amazing. Being able to see our platform induce antibiotic production on demand was a breath of fresh air.
A close second was an amazing bioprospecting trip we went on. We brought a few MicrobeMiner kits and traveled the west coast of Cork, Ireland. We took some awesome soil samples near the cliffs off Old Head lighthouse in Kinsale. We’re excited to process these kits. Could ‘Kinsaleamycin’ be the next blockbuster antibiotic? Stay tuned!
JF: What was a major challenge you have faced during the accelerator?
DH: We were challenged from the start to produce a simple product that would allow people to meaningfully partake in what is normally one of the most risky and technical areas of science, drug discovery. Almost everyone relies on medicine at some point in their life, but most people feel a real disconnect with massive pharmaceutical companies. We sought to make a collaborative antibiotic discovery company that makes people feel involved, informed, and important.
JF: Where do you see Prospective Research in the future?
JC: Within the next one to three years we seek to have a handful of lead compounds that we can license to larger companies suited for turning them into actual lifesaving medicines.
We plan to continue growing the crowdsourcing aspect of the business and expand the number of disease targets we could potentially treat, beyond infectious disease. Imagine if we could crowdsource a cure for cancer?
Our long-term dream is to have bioprospecting hubs in countries around the world. These hubs will create jobs, educate and involve local citizens and students in utilizing their natural resources to find solutions to the world’s most pressing medical needs.