Tata firm ready with tech to reverse antibiotic resistance

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The technology developed by Ramot can restore bacteria sensitivity, reverse their antibiotic resistance and reduce their virulence.

New Delhi: Four years after it partnered with Tel Aviv University Ltd to fund cutting edge technology in health care, Tata Industries Ltd is ready with a technology that can potentially reverse antibiotics resistance.

In 2013, Tata Industries agreed to invest in the university’s technology transfer company—Ramot—in its $25 million Momentum fund, which would help commercialize breakthrough technologies developed in laboratories.

Out of 15 odd technologies that Ramot was working on, four are already at the commercialization stage, K.R.S. Jamwal, executive director of Tata Industries, said in a telephone interview.

Of the four, the one to reverse antibiotic resistance, he said, can be a game changer for a country like India.

“This is such an interesting and powerful technology and given how serious antibiotic resistance is as a challenge in India specifically, India definitely will be one of the key markets,” Jamwal said.

“We will have a solution to antibiotic resistance which makes us very excited and it pleases us a lot that somewhere our funding is going into insuring technologies like this which may have earlier been stuck on the shelf as a fantastic work done by a scientist, have now advanced to a stage where there is a very high likelihood that it will get commercialized,” he added.

Tel Aviv University has developed a novel way to restore bacteria sensitivity and reverse their antibiotic resistance and also reduce their virulence.

Explaining the technology, Professor Adi Elkeles, vice-president, business development, life sciences, Ramot at Tel Aviv University, explained that a “trojan horse strategy is used where they take the natural enemies of bacteria and use them to inject the DNA into bacteria. The DNA harbours an attack mechanism that can kill the bacteria, but on the same hand, offers them a lifesaving wheel. And if they take that lifesaving wheel, then they are saved by the attack. But at the same time they get DNA that contains a very elegant DNA editing technology called CRISPR. And CRISPR sequences just cut away the antibiotic resistant genes”.

“I think whoever is the commercialization partner, which will probably be one of the large pharma companies, will be looking at countries like India as a key market for this technology. I think there is a huge applicability for India. And in the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria we are also one of the highest prevalence countries. So it is critical for India,” added Jamwal.

Dr Miriam Mangelus, vice-president, business development, healthcare, Ramot at Tel Aviv University, spoke about the other technologies that are currently under development under the Momentum fund.

“There is a design to pick, select good quality sperms for invitro-fertilization. We are working on developing delivery systems for nucleic acid-based such as DNA or plasma DNA or RNA based technologies. This technology has just started a few months ago. We basically are now in a stage where we are scouting for an accelerator, we can scale up our programme. I would say in the next two years, we can start clinical trials in humans.”