Marcel Faber Roundtable: Is our antibiotic pipeline unproductive because of starvation, constipation or lack of inspiration?
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There are few new antibiotics in the pipeline today. The reasons may include starvation at the front of the pipeline due to inadequate sources of suitable compounds to screen coupled with poorly validated discovery methodologies. A successful antibiotic discovery approach in the past, based upon whole cell antibiotic screening of natural products from actinomycetes and fungi, eventually suffered from constipation in the middle of the pipeline due to rediscovery of known compounds, even though low throughput methodology was employed at the front end. The current lack of productivity may be attributed to the poor choice of strategies to address the discovery of new antibiotics. Recent applications of high throughput in vitro screening of individual antibacterial targets to identify lead compounds from combinatorial chemical libraries, traditional chemical libraries, and partially purified natural product extracts has not produced any significant clinical candidates. The solution to the current dilemma may be to return to natural product whole cell screening. For this approach to work in the current millennium, the process needs to be miniaturized to increase the throughput by orders of magnitude over traditional screening, and the rediscovery of known antibiotics needs to be minimized by methods that can be readily monitored and improved over time.