Finnish virtual antibiotics developer Northern Antibiotics is working towards a new molecule that targets drug-resistant bacteria.

The company noted nearly 60,000 deaths annually in the US and Europe are due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Furthermore, these organisms are responsible for lengthy treatments and hospital stays, which in turn increase healthcare costs.

Northern Antibiotics’ new molecule is a polymyxin derivative belonging to the peptide antibiotics and is effective against carbapenem-resistant bacteria.

Usually, carbapenem antibiotics are used to treat serious infections caused by superbugs that are resistant to other drugs.

However, these bacteria are also becoming resistant to carbapenems, increasing the risk of complications and death due to drug resistance.

In 1960, use of the old polymyxin terminated as the antibiotic was associated with kidney toxicity. Scientists went on to discover antibiotics with a better tolerability profile, according to the company.

Northern Antibiotics added that polymyxins have now become last-resort drugs for particularly multi-resistant strains but the related nephrotoxicity requires the use of lower doses than those needed for optimal efficacy.

Preclinical studies revealed that the company’s molecule is less nephrotoxic compared to the old polymyxin.

Moreover, high levels of the new polymyxin derivative pass into urine, which is said to improve the efficacy versus the old polymyxin.

According to the company, this enables the use of the molecule in significantly lower doses to treat urinary tract infections and also decreases the risks of side-effects.

Northern Antibiotics expects the molecule, which is currently in the late preclinical stage, to be available for hospital use by 2020.

The company is seeking a commercial partner to support further development of the product and to initiate human clinical trials with additional funding.

In 2015, Northern Antibiotics licensed a separate polymyxin derivative to US-based Spero Therapeutics.

Though this molecule is inactive as a single agent, it is said to boost the activity of other antibiotics. The molecule has completed the first phase of its studies in humans.