Nanoparticles may hinder bacterial growth

Nanopharma Technologies Inc, a USF spin-off company, has received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for cutting-edge research in the field of antibacterial nanoparticles.

Founded in November 2003, Nanopharma is a pharmaceutical research company started by USF professor Edward Turos and his partner Seyoung Jang.

“Nanopharma came about because of a situation in my lab where we were creating technology for antibiotics development and drug delivery,” Turos said. “As we were trying to patent our discoveries, we realized that they were at such an early stage that there wouldn’t be much interest generated by the big drug companies. So one avenue we explored in order to advance these patents was to start our own company.”

Shortly after its founding, Nanopharma began pursuing federal grants to support research in the field of antibiotic nanoparticles, specifically those that attack hospital infections such as Staphylococcal bacteria.

“We developed some antibiotics in our lab earlier that are remarkably efficient in preventing the growth of Staph bacteria in the presence of many other types of bacteria. They are very specific in that application. The nanoparticle is a tiny particle about one-millionth the size of a pinhead. You can’t see it under a microscope; you can see it under an electronic microscope.

“These are very, very small particles that antibiotics can be attached to with the purpose of trying to improve the performance of antibiotics in controlling infections. We are also finding that the nanoparticles have other properties, specifically in protecting the antibiotics from degradation. So these particles enhance the performance of our antibiotics as well as others,” Turos said.

The NSF lists Nanopharma as a Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer research project. In a press release, the NSF highlights the field of nanoparticle research as “essentially unexplored.”

According to the NSF release, “The precipitous loss in the ability of antibiotics to treat bacterial infections is already having enormous societal implications. The number of deaths and serious illnesses due to clinical complications from drug-resistant infections is staggering.

“This research will establish a new treatment protocol for these types of infections through use of cutting-edge nanotechnology, both as a drug-delivery platform and as an effective way to recover the therapeutic effectiveness of antibiotics like penicillin. There are currently no existing technologies like this in the anti-infectives area, indication of an unmet health need and a large commercial market.”