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Bacteria beware: MIT student invents knock-out punch for antibiotic resistance
Date:2/27/2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (February 27, 2008) MIT graduate student and synthetic biologist Timothy Lu is passionate about tackling problems that pose threats to human health. His current mission: to destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Today, the 27-year-old M.D. candidate and Ph.D. in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology received the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventing processes that promise to combat bacterial infections by enhancing the effectiveness of antibiotics at killing bacteria and helping to eradicate biofilm bacterial layers that resist antimicrobial treatment and breed on surfaces, such as those of medical, industrial and food processing equipment.

Bacterial infections can lead to severe health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the antibiotic-resistant bacterium MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, causes approximately 94,000 infections and contributes to 19,000 deaths annually in the United States, through contact that can occur in a variety of locations, including schools, hospitals and homes. Bacteria can also infect food, including spinach and beef, and damage industrial equipment.

Lu explained that fewer pharmaceutical companies are inventing new antibiotics due to long development times, high failure rates and large costs. According to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, the cost to develop a new drug is $930 million (based on the value of the dollar in 2006). These factors, coupled with a decline in the number of prescriptions authorized for antibiotics, constrain profits. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are also becoming more prevalent, Lu noted. My inventions enable the rapid design and production of inexpensive antibacterial agents that can break through the defenses of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and bacterial biofilms.

Delivering a One-Two Punch

Working with his advisor, J.J
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Contact: Julie Staadecker
jstaadecker@coneinc.com
617-939-8427
Lemelson-MIT Program
Source:Eurekalert  

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