Adam Christie: Scottish talent can help beat superbugs

Andrew Witty. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Andrew Witty. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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AS A small Scottish biotechnology company developing a brand new class of antibacterials, we welcome the presence in Edinburgh of Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and GSK’s ongoing commitment to the pharmaceutical industry in Scotland.

Perhaps surprisingly, from a perspective of dramatically different scale, our own view of the global pharmaceutical market is rather close to that of Sir Andrew’s.

Europe is an increasingly challenging market and in our particular field of antibacterials much of the focus is indeed on the more than 80 per cent of the world market beyond our own continent.

On that basis we see our role as a locally based innovator addressing important worldwide health problems.

However, as Monday’s comments from Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, so graphically illustrate, there is one particular area of medicine in which there is a rapidly growing need here in Scotland and the rest of Europe and that is in the war against bacterial drug resistance.

MGB Biopharma is collaborating with the University of Strathclyde to develop a brand new class of antibiotics with a novel mechanism of action.

An important consideration here is that a new class may not necessarily be effective in the longer term against superbugs such as MRSA and C difficile if it works through an existing mechanism.

These DNA minor groove binders, as they are known, are novel both in structure and in the mechanism by which they work, and will soon be ready to enter first clinical trials.

We realise that the economics of antibacterial drug development may not be as compelling as certain other drug classes.

However, we urge the government, the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry to work together to create 
an environment in which we can encourage innovation in this therapeutic area and help avoid the crisis foreseen by the Chief Medical Officer.

• Adam Christie is chairman of MGB Biopharma Limited.