Antibiotics have shaped modern medicine, and two Northeastern professors have unearthed a new bacteria that may produce a powerful antibiotic.
Biology Professor Slava Epstein and Distinguished Professor Kim Lewis have developed Teixobactin, a new antibiotic. The antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance, meaning bacteria will not develop an antibiotic resistance.
“[Teixobactin] kills bacteria in a non-traditional way,” Epstein said. “It hits two targets in a pathogen, and as a result has a dual reaction. Typical antibiotics hit one target.”
The discovery comes at a time when traditional antibiotics are beginning to lose their potency. As reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 2 million people in the US are infected with drug-resistant bacteria, with at least 23,000 of those cases resulting in death.
The discovery of Teixobactin was by chance, and came out of the development of the iChip, engineered by Epstein, Lewis and their labs.
“iChip is a way to culture organisms in their natural environment,” Brittany Berdy, a fourth year Ph.D. candidate studying microbiology, said.
Berdy became interested in the research after coming across one of Epstein’s papers on the iChip, which said that only one percent of bacteria has been cultured in labs, leaving Berdy to wonder about the other 99 percent.
The iChip consists of an inner layer featuring tiny wells which are sealed with a porous membrane small enough that bacteria can’t enter, but nutrients and water molecules can. The iChip is then assembled with two outer pieces and incubated. Once the bacteria inside begins to multiply, it can continue to grow within a lab setting.
Berdy states that the bacteria being cultured in an iChip is more likely to grow than in a traditional lab setting, because the bacteria is being cultured in its natural habitat and each well is already separated by species of bacteria.
“[It] has the potential to isolate species that haven’t been found because we’re growing them in their natural environment,” Berdy said. “And because of that, we have potential access to the other 99 percent [of bacteria] that hasn’t been cultured.”
Teixobactin has cured mice with lung and thigh infections without the bacteria becoming resistant to it. In a test tube setting, the drug killed anthrax, tuberculosis and different kinds of staph and strep infections, as reported by the New York Times.
Northeastern holds the patent on this method of producing drugs, and licensed it to NovoBiotic Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, of which Lewis and Epstein are both co-founders.
Epstein and Lewis’ findings were recently featured in the Jan. 21 issue of Nature, an international scientific journal. Their findings have also been covered in the New York Times, BBC World News, National Geographic and the Wall Street Journal. Most recently, Epstein has been profiled in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The antibiotic is still in lab phases and has to undergo human testing before approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If approved, it would still take roughly five to six years to reach the market, Lewis told the New York Times.
“In my view, and in the view of others, exciting as this new discovery will be, [the question] is whether or not it makes a splash in the market,” Epstein said. “I’m very excited about the platform because it sort of guarantees the discovery of more and more [potential] antibiotics and compounds in the future.”
This piece was originally published by the Huntington News.
After a long period of jury selection, opening statements and testimony started Wednesday in the case of Brian MacDonald and Bianca Hollenbeck. MacDonald is charged with second-degree murder and Hollenbeck with assault and battery after the stabbing death of 21-year-old Anthony Spaulding.
On Jan. 31, 2013, around 2 a.m., the defendants allegedly went to a New Years Eve party at Spaulding’s house on 48 Pratt Street, prosecutors said. A fight between Spaulding and MacDonald erupted over noise and spilled champagne, sending the two tumbling down the stairs.
After the fight was broken up, Spaulding lay on the ground bleeding from stab wounds that hit his heart and liver. He was later pronounced dead from his injuries at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Assistant District Attorneys Julie Higgins and Tara Burdman opened the case with the argument that the fight and attack was unprovoked and Spaulding was unarmed.
Higgins claims that Spaulding was attacked after trying to apologize to Hollenbeck and MacDonald after the stairs incident. Hollenbeck then put Spaulding in a headlock and MacDonald began to attack him.
The knife was never recovered.
Defense attorney Tom Hoopes argued that mankind has always defended himself, and that is what MacDonald did as well.
Hoopes painted a picture of MacDonald and Hollenbeck trying to leave after the confrontation on the stairs and that once outside, Spaulding and his friends ganged up on MacDonald. In response to being kicked, hit and having bottles thrown at him, MacDonald had no choice but to defend himself.
David Grimaldi, who is representing Hollenbeck, called the events “tragic.” He said Spaulding’s girlfriend at the time was the first one to act in an aggressive manner.
Testimony will continue over the next week.
This piece was originally published by Homicide Watch Boston.
The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently recognized Simon Pitts, a professor of practice in engineering leadership and the director of the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership, and Michael Silevitch, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and a Robert D. Black distinguished professor, for their role and influence within Northeastern’s Gordon Engineering Leadership Program (GEL).
“I’m very honored by it,” Silevitch said. “The fact that the National Academy of Engineering identified this program as an exemplary program in terms of fostering leadership was extremely humbling for me.”
The NAE presented the program with the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education for developing an innovative way to provide graduate engineering students with the necessary skills to become effective engineering leaders, as stated by the NAE in a press release on Jan. 8.
The GEL is a graduate curriculum offered through the College of Engineering. The program selects a number of candidates to pursue the GEL in combination with a Master of Science degree.
“The goal of the Gordon Institute and Leadership Program is to transform good engineers to great engineering leaders,” Pitts said. “GEL recognizes the need to develop engineering leaders who can develop a vision, articulate it and then motivate a diverse team of cross-functional engineers to realize that vision in a real-world competitive environment.”
The program is comprised of leadership capabilities, leadership laboratories, product development, scientific principles and the challenge project. Silevitch notes that the program accelerates the traditional period of time it takes to become a multidisciplinary engineering leader, typically six to 15 years, to five or six years.
“They have to understand teamwork and the development of a complex project, which requires the orchestration of the team,” Silevitch said. “In order to do that, people need to know that you don’t just become a leader by waving your hand. You need to understand that you need to be a follower before you can be a leader. Many engineers are trained in a single discipline.[The point] of an engineering leader is that they need to be comfortable understanding multidisciplinary elements of each project.”
Tim Parker, who graduated from Northeastern in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and will be graduating this spring with a Masters of Science in engineering management, was one student to pass through the leadership program.
Parker said that the program exposes each member to the personal and professional qualities and skills required to lead high-powered and effective engineering teams. He also notes that such material is not commonly taught early in an engineering career, but something that is generally slowly learned over the course of an engineer’s experience.
“I honestly didn’t entirely know what I was getting myself into when I entered the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program,” Parker said. “I knew I wanted to stay in engineering, I wanted to accelerate my career and I wanted to push myself, but I had no idea what this experience was going to be like.”
Parker notes that aside from leadership curriculum, there is a strong focus on product development. He and other students also spend two and a half hours of class time, and many hours outside of the classroom, studying every discipline of engineering from mechanical engineering to quantum mechanics.
One of the key components of the curriculum is the challenge program, which is defined by a sponsoring organization of the GEL. The sponsor defines a challenge that they themselves are not confident students will accomplish. Students then have a year to work through the elements of the project.
“It is hard to explain the comradery I experienced with my classmates,” Parker said. “Not only did we work hard, but we all worked hard together. I think that is one reason candidates are able to get through such an intense program. And it builds upon the importance of strong teamwork. None of us are going to succeed in our careers working in a vacuum.”
Parker’s challenge program involved increasing the throughput of a speaker component manufacturing process meant to support an automotive speaker system business. The project involved alignment with customers in manufacturing and business units, development of market value analysis, concept generation and thermal process modeling.
Parker states that Silevitch and Pitts’ contributions to the development of engineering leadership is monumentally important, citing that the more young engineers who can speak the language and exercise the leadership capabilities, the more exciting the future of engineering will be.
“The program transformed my professional perspective,” Parker said. “I realized the magnitude of the effect that teams that I worked with could have on my organization. I thought that I had that perspective before entering the program, but the Gordon staff really pushed me to think bigger and be aware of the impact that my teams and I could have.”
With a $500,000 gift included in NAE recognition, half the award will go directly to the program and the development of case studies. Pitts and Silevitch will each receive a quarter of the award.
“I feel it is a tribute to the many great people we have [involved in] the program,” Pitts said. “It is a recognition of the quality and impact of the work that the team delivers.”
This piece was originally published by the Huntington News.
Chronicling my journalistic endeavors.
All ocean conservation/biodiversity posts are my own original thoughts. All other posts are my work for other publications.