This Tiny Biotech Attacks Drug-Resistant “Super Bugs”

10 | By Michael A. Robinson

My Dad, Clarence “Rob” Robinson, has always been a very tough guy.

He played football in high school, and then again as a U.S. Marine. During a game at Camp Pendleton, an injury put his right knee in a cast. Later, while fighting in Vietnam, his left knee was wounded.

But he refused to let the injuries slow him down.

Now, however, as he approaches his 80th birthday, my Dad has to take action. Next month, he goes in for a knee replacement.

It’s become a pretty common procedure, so I’m not worried about the surgery itself.

But I am a bit concerned about “Super Bugs.”

You know what I’m talking about. Drug-resistant Super Bugs are afflicting hospitals, clinics and patients all across the country.

In fact, I’ll wager that you know of a family member, friend or co-worker who’s dealt with this scary – even terrifying – malady.

For patients, these drug-resistant afflictions are something to fear. But for investors and drugmakers, they represent a $9 billion opportunity.

The technical term for one of the most prevalent Super Bugs is “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.” You may also have heard it referred to as “MRSA” (pronounced “Mer-Suh”), or even as a “staph” infection.

Super Bugs like MRSA are potentially deadly microbes that have mutated so many times over the years that they have become virtually immune to standard antibiotics. They can sometimes even withstand multiple courses of multiple medications – including the strongest doctors have in their treatment arsenals. And they can invade hospitals and kill recovering patients whose weakened immune systems just can’t fight off the drug-resistant bacteria.

In the United States alone, MRSA kills an estimated 20,000 people a year – more than AIDS – and the same number in Europe.

And MRSA isn’t the only Super Bug threat.

Indeed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is ringing the alarm bell because a nasty new bug has so far killed half the patients it’s infected.

This Super Bug is known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae. (Thank heavens it’s called CRE for short.) CRE has manifested a fourfold increase in the past decade, infecting patients in some 42 states.

Just how big a deal does the healthcare community believe this to be?

Well, just last week, Dame Sally Davies, the United Kingdom’s chief medical officer, said these drug-resistant bugs are “a ticking time bomb – not only for the U.K., but also for the world.”

Indeed, Davies said Super Bugs are a “horror story” that has led to a new infectious disease discovery almost every year for the past 30 years.

I don’t like the way that sounds – especially given my personal stake in this fight.

Fortunately, the biotech industry is looking to even the odds.

A number of Big Pharma players are using their muscle to tackle the Super Bug challenge.

For instance, GlaxoSmithKline PLC (NYSE ADR: GSK) and AstraZeneca PLC (NYSE ADR: AZN) each have active antibiotic R&D programs. But with combined market caps of almost $170 billion, the upside potential is modest, at best.

That’s why I’m more intrigued by a small-cap baby biotech called Trius Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: TSRX).

Trius, you see, is working on a fast-acting drug – tedizolid phosphate – for the treatment of serious infections … including Super Bugs like MRSA.

Trius has already completed most of the clinical trials needed to seek approval for a new drug. The few results it has made public demonstrate a success rate roughly equal to rivaling therapies, and fewer negative effects – while requiring just 60% of the treatment time.

If it’s able to report the results of another study – part of its second Phase III trial for the drug – by the end of the current quarter, the biopharma firm said it would file its “new drug application” (NDA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the second half of this year.

Like many smaller biotechs, the company has a rough-and-tumble balance sheet, meaning it’s very much a high-risk type of stock. But with a market cap of just $270 million, and a share price of only $6.85, there’s a hefty potential upside should the Trius Super Bug drug gain the imprimatur of the FDA.

And that’s an outcome I’d like to see … for my Dad, and for all the MRSA patients to come.

10 Responses to This Tiny Biotech Attacks Drug-Resistant “Super Bugs”

  1. Scott Davis says:

    Although big pharma is using its big bucks and big clout with the FDA to try to suppress dissemination of any information about the age-old medicinal uses of silver, it is reputed that a topical application of colloidal silver (ionized minute silver particles suspended in distilled water) to affected skin areas kills MRSA within minutes of application. If you are really concerned for your father, you might check into this. Doing so will probably surface major warnings about your skin turning blue. In fact, this can happen if you ingest extreme amounts, beyond your body’s normal ability to eliminate the silver through flushing processes. Too much of any good thing can be a bad thing. But used in moderation, there is no reason for concern, and topical use poses no threat whatsoever.

  2. Tom Wadzinski says:

    All you have to do is use colloidal AG spray.
    And for cleaning surfaces and instruments, use ‘citrus’ disenfectant.

    I know, sacrilegious thoughts!

    o-o-o-h, just noticed another similar reply above!


    • Ernest M. Kraus says:

      As a registered pharmacist and retired pharmceutical representative that worked for a company that developed a number of antibiotics in the past, there is a long trip from the lab to that first patient and recouping the investment.

      The issue is that should any of these make it to market, they will not be first line drugs. Infection control physicians will have them restricted in useage. It will require culture sensitivity to this drug only before it will be allowed to be used.

      E-mail me and we can have a further discussion. I am happy to function as a consultant on issues such as this.

      Ernest M. Kraus,R.Ph.

      • Michael Robinson says:

        Hi Ernest,

        Thanks for posting your comments and for the offer to use your expertise.

        Also, you make a good point about the first line of attack. You would know better than me but my guess is they would follow a protocol of increasing the dose and/or using stronger drugs if the first round or two fail.



  3. Kerwin Pyle says:

    take a look at Poly Medics (PYMX) they are working on a memic type drug, it memics the human imune systems response to MRSA. tell us what you think.

  4. Steve K says:

    I’m a bit perplexed by the blase and arrogant comment left previously “all you have to do is use colloidal AG spray”.

    I suppose my team of infectious disease experts at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (along with the chief spinal surgeon whose best efforts did not prevent my case of MRSA) must have just overlooked this simple approach that left me in a coma for 6 weeks with the septic infection that damaged two heart valves forcing open heart surgery one year after they finally were able to reverse the prognosis of death which they delivered to my family while I was still comatose. Oh yes, I should not fail to mention the destroyed shoulder, knee (both) and wrist joints which resulted from the infection mobilizing my immune system against said joints.

    And to think a simple topical silver spray might have saved at least some of the year’s worth of physical therapy that sucessfully taught me to get out of bed and walk with a walker, wear a fentanyl
    transdermal patch to mitigate the constant residual pain.

    I will enthusiastically invest in this promising company at the right time but I’ll probably also be giving the hospitals a wide birth until they’ve proven themselves capable of establishing the correct protocols for controlling the spread of these “super bugs”.

    • Michael Robinson says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your ordeal with us. It’s quite a cautionary tale, and I for one am glad you lived to tell it. I’m not qualified to offer an opinion on the type of sprays mentioned in some of the posts. As I said in my column, it takes Herculean efforts to stop the spread of these killer bacteria and to save people’s live. Sounds like your doctors really pulled out all the stops. I hope you continue to do better. Once again, thanks,


  5. paul clayton says:

    The colloidal silver story is WAY over-promoted, often by individuals shilling for the silver supplement makers. The fact is that the clinical evidence base for Ag is practically non-existent. Ditto the citrus extracts, they can undoubtedly be used as surface disinfectants but as antibiotics? Where is the evidence? (And I don’t mean the usual anecdotal junk).

    I don’t have much confidence in Tedizolid P either; the same evolutionary microbial mechanisms will kick into action, just as they have done with the glycylcyclines, and every other antibiotic category.

    There are other approaches that do not trigger resistance, as they do not rely on selective microbial killing. And that is where the lasting results, and the money, will come from.

  6. danny glenn says:

    chemical companies falsy sell cleaning products and midlead hospitals about their effectiveness. UV light is much more effective at killing these superbugs and spores like cdif. All hospital areas should have these light fixtures in use in every available way to keep areas sterial. After being aro aund hospitals the last few years helping to look after my aging family its appaling at how lax they are. Simply posting hand washing signs will not stop these bugs. Much more agressive regulations are needed. Iwas appalled when I discussed these issues with an individual responsible for cleaning at one of the major hospital chains in our area. Iwouldnot trust this guy to know how to clean acommode much less a room I was going to have surgery in. All he could do was repeat what rhe cleaner salesman had told him. He had no clue about what he was doing and he was over 150 people who cleaned the hospitals and they cut about 50 of those possitions

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