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Did you know that in the past 50 years, only three new classes of antibiotics were discovered? In fact, the majority of our antibiotics were discovered in the mid-twentieth century, as naturally occurring low-hanging fruit. Molecules used by micro-organisms that work surprisingly well in the human body to treat infections. Worryingly, the slowdown in antibiotic discovery is accompanied by the emergence of antibiotic resistance. And experts now estimate that by the year 2050, antibiotic resistance will be the cause of 10 million deaths globally, more than is contributed to all cancers combined. Interestingly, the antibiotics that we use as drugs represent only a fraction of all the naturally occurring compounds that are known to possess antibiotic activity. The problem is most naturally occurring do not work in the human body. Therefore, my research group uses organic chemistry to enhance the drug-like properties of naturally occurring antibiotics. To do so, we structurally modify natures molecules to increase the antibiotic potency and reduce their toxicity. By reaching a little further up the tree to find our next generation of antibiotics, we will stay one step ahead of the growing tide of antibiotic resistance.

REACHING UP THE TREE FOR A NEW GENERATION OF ANTIBIOTICS
NATHANIEL MARTINPROFILE
Leiden University

Did you know that in the past 50 years, only three new classes of antibiotics were discovered? Because of growing antibiotic resistance, we do need to find new classes of antibiotics. Nathaniel Martin of Leiden University explains how he is working on a solution.

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