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How Aelin (Flanders) fights bacterial resistance

Due to the excessive use of antibiotics, the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotic treatment is becoming an increasingly urgent problem around the world. As a result, even routine operations are becoming more dangerous because of mutating hospital bacteria. Aelin Therapeutics, a Flanders-based biotech pioneer and spin-off of VIB (Flanders’ strategic research center for biotech and life sciences) is currently working with universities KU Leuven, VUB and UGent to develop new methods to defeat drug-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria inside a biofilm, 3D illustration

The danger of drug-resistant pathogens has been receiving more attention lately. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2050, 10 million people could die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. As a result, the fight against multi-drug resistant pathogens is one of the WHO’s top priorities and was a key topic at the 2020 World Economic Form in Davos. Even the G7 recently added the issue of bacterial resistance to its agenda. This growing awareness is necessary, according to Els Beirnaert, CEO of Aelin Therapeutics: “Antibiotic resistance is a critical issue, but we see it as an opportunity to develop medicines in a radically new way.” 

From antibiotics to oncology

While conventional antibiotics primarily focus on attacking bacterial cell walls, Pept-insTM, Aelin Therapeutics’ novel approach to eliminating toxic bacterial proteins, has a different mode of action. “In simple terms, you could compare it to boiling an egg, which transforms liquid protein into a solid substance,” explains Beirnaert. With this technology, the company can kill two birds with one stone: the technology could also be used to develop a treatment for terminal cancers, as it can break down the proteins that promote the growth of cancer cells.  

In just two years, Aelin Therapeutics has made significant progress. “Soon, we will determine which molecules to use for preclinical development in the fields of bacterial infections and oncology. We have already achieved some exciting results for an oncology project financed by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship,” Beirnaert continues.  

"You'll hear more from us"

In January 2020, Aelin Therapeutics participated in the 38th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in the US. “When we tell our story, everybody listens. We think out of the box, and that is exactly what international investors are looking for. They are not interested in projects that would produce medicines similar to standard antibiotics,” Beirnaert states. Companies investing in Aelin Therapeutics include PMV, Fund+, LSP (the Netherlands), and Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany). “We already have the necessary innovative approach, now we only need to convince other investors with our impressive results. Trust me, you’ll hear more from us.”

More info

Aelin Therapeutics
Reported by
Trends magazine
8 June 2020

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