Principal Investigator
The University of Texas at Austin

With antibiotic resistance a growing health challenge, UT researcher Bryan Davies has developed a new technique to speed up the search for new drugs. His team has pioneered SLAY (Surface Localized Antimicrobial Display) to engineer bacteria to create, test and report back on potential drugs that can inhibit their growth.

“Our goal is to improve health outcomes by developing proteins and peptides to treat diseases. While peptides have long been considered a rich potential source of new antibiotics, they are very difficult to work with,” he says. “SLAY is a major leap forward, speeding up the screening process to identify likely candidates for additional research and potential drug development.”

As proof of concept, Dr. Davies’ team screened about 800,000 peptides for antimicrobial effects. Of those, several thousand killed E. coli bacteria, making them potential leads for antibiotics. While follow-up research will be necessary to determine which, if any, of the thousands of new leads are truly effective and safe in humans, the researchers have demonstrated that at least one such molecule, dubbed P7, also kills other forms of pathogenic bacteria and is safe in mice.

“Just think if we had 1,000 labs using this technique,” he enthuses. “This would really expand our ability to find new treatments effective against diseases – without harming or killing the patient. The more players, the more likely we are to find a win.”