Many people are familiar with the story of Sir Alexander Fleming who, upon returning from his vacation, discovered that one of his petri dishes of Staphylococcus aursus had become contaminated with the mold Penicillium notatum. Dr. Fleming observed that the mold had secreted a substance that appeared to kill the bacteria growing around it. The substance was eventually identified and named penicillin, launching what is now known as the antibiotic era.
Remarkably, decades after this discovery, the vast majority of antibiotics in clinical use today continue to be derived from compounds produced naturally by microorganisms. However, as bacteria adapt and become resistant to existing natural product-derived antibacterial drugs, there is an increasing need to turn to alternative modalities in order to identify the next novel antibacterial therapies.
With the wealth of expertise and technologies available to Merck scientists, researchers within Merck's infectious diseases department hope to have the opportunity to look beyond natural products to expand the armamentarium of antibacterial therapies available for the treatment of highly resistant bacterial infections.
Merck has a long history of discovering and developing molecules for the treatment of diseases in various therapeutic areas. Merck's infectious disease experts are now utilizing high-throughput screening and working with medicinal chemists to apply small molecule chemistry to tackling bacterial infections. The flexibility afforded by using new technologies will hopefully help us stay one step ahead of the threat of bacterial resistance.
As Merck continues to invest in and implement novel technologies, this is indeed an exciting time to be part of the effort to identify the next generation of antibacterial medicines.