Harvard’s Synthetic Superbug: A Breakthrough Against Antibiotic Resistance



With its enhanced ability to attach to ribosomes, the ground-breaking antibiotic cresomycin, created by Harvard scientists, offers promise in the fight against worldwide antimicrobial resistance.
Researchers at Harvard have developed a novel antibiotic that circumvents the processes of antimicrobial resistance that have rendered many contemporary medications useless and are causing a global public health emergency.
Many kinds of drug-resistant bacteria, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, are killed by a synthetic molecule called cresomycin, according to research led by Amory Houghton Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Andrew Myers and published in Science.
Our results demonstrate considerably enhanced inhibitory effects against a long list of pathogenic bacterial strains that kill over a million people annually, compared with clinically approved antibiotics, Myers said. However, we do not yet know whether cresomycin and similar drugs are safe and effective in humans.

Progress in Antimicrobial Approaches

The novel molecule has an enhanced capacity to attach to bacterial ribosomes, which are biomolecular apparatuses that regulate the production of proteins. Many of the antibiotics now in use disrupt ribosome activity, although certain bacteria have developed defence mechanisms that stop the effectiveness of older medications.
One of the many intriguing substances that Myers’ team has created to defeat superbugs is cresomycin. Through preclinical profiling investigations, they will continue to advance these compounds using funding from the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), amounting to $1.2 million. CARB-X is a worldwide nonprofit collaboration with headquarters at Boston University that is committed to advancing early-stage antibacterial research and development.
The molecular structures of lincosamides, a family of antibiotics that includes the often prescribed clindamycin, served as the model for the novel molecule developed by Harvard researchers. Clindamycin, like many other antibiotics, is produced using semi synthesis, a process that involves directly modifying complicated compounds that are extracted from nature for use as drugs. On the other hand, the new Harvard substance is entirely synthetic and has chemical alterations that are not accessible using current methods.
As nature’s chosen target for antibacterial drugs, the bacterial ribosome serves as the model for our programme, according to co-author and student at Kenneth C. Gryphon Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Ben Tresco. “When developing new antibiotics, we are essentially limited to our creativity when utilising the potential of organic synthesis.

Overcoming Resistance in Bacteria

Bacteria that express genes for ribosomal RNA methyl transferases can become resistant to antibiotic treatments that target the ribosome. The drug components that are willful to hold to and disturb the ribosome are arranged by these enzymes,  preventing the medication from doing its intended function.
Through engineering, their structure was modified into a rigidified structure that closely resembled its binding target, Myers and their students were able to control this problem and give their compound a tighter hold on the ribosome. For ribosomal binding, the medication developed by the researchers is referred to as “pre-organized” since it doesn’t require the same amount of energy to conform to its target as other medicines do.

Component-based synthesis” Using this technique, the researchers were able to synthesise cresomycin. This process requires constructing sizable molecular components of comparable complexity and joining them at a later stage, much like pre-building parts of a complex LEGO set before collecting them. They can create and test hundreds of target compounds using this modular, fully synthetic technology, which significantly accelerates the drug development process.
It is obvious what is at stake. “Antibiotics are the cornerstone upon which modern healthcare is constructed,” graduate student and co-author Kelvin Wu stated. “Many advanced medical procedures, such as surgeries, cancer treatments, and organ transplants, cannot be performed without antibiotics.

Assistance and Future Initiatives

Harvard’s Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, a subsection of the Office of Technology Development, provided early funding for Myers’ “component-based synthesis” research in 2013. This enables Myers’ group to test therapeutic molecules. For the term of the CARB-X agreement, the research team will get support from the Office of Technology Development and the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, which will safeguard the ideas of the Myers Research team. The researchers can carry out further drug lead profiling and optimisation thanks to the recently granted CARB-X funding.
Chief scientific officer of the Harvard accelerator, Curtis Keith, said, “Funding and other help from companies like the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator and CARB-X are essential for the discovery and development of new antibiotics.” “These discoveries from the Myers Research Group may lead to the development of novel medications that will eventually address a need in world health.

See Scientists Develop Groundbreaking New Antibiotics for additional information on this finding.


Thanks to Harvard scientists’ ground-breaking discovery of cresomycin, the world’s antibiotic resistance confusion may have a bright future. The enhancement of bacterial ribosome attachment property of cresomycin makes it a very beneficial antibiotic against a different of drug-resistant bacteria. Nevertheless, more study is required to discover its efficacy and safety in people. This discovery is supported by programs like CARB-X, which emphasizes how crucial it is to keep funding antibiotic research to solve pressing public health issues.


Q: What is the difference between cresomycin and conventional antibiotics?

Q: How can cresomycin help microorganisms that are resistant to antibiotics?

Q: What kind of assistance is provided to the research team to advance their work?

Q: How may cresomycin affect the world’s medical system?

Q: What are the upcoming stages in the possible antibiotic development of cresomycin?

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