UPDATED: AvidBiotics developing alternative in animal antibiotics

AvidBiotics co-founders James Knighton (left) and David Martin--Courtesy of AvidBiotics

The FDA is now 6 months into its clamp down on antibiotic use for animals, in the wake of spiking infections from not only bacterial vulnerability in livestock on the farm, but in humans from consuming drug-pumped meat. And with industry heavyweights signed on to phase out 283 products by the end of the three-year regulatory sweep, analysts warn in a new market report the animal antibiotic market is destined for a hard crash. But what if scientists could engineer an alternative to antibiotics--potentially as effective, and just as quick?

San Francisco-based AvidBiotics is currently developing antibacterial non-antibody proteins against food and animal bacterial pathogens that the company calls Purocin proteins. AvidBiotics president and co-founder Jim Knighton told FierceAnimalHealth that these engineered proteins are "the antithesis of a broad spectrum antibiotic."

AvidBiotics' Purocin proteins are selective enough to take out a single strain of bacteria without impact on other bacteria of the microbiota. Knighton explained that the Purocin proteins are digestible and biodegradable. The proteins have 6 binding sites and can be tailored to bind to either specific gram-negative or specific gram-positive bacteria.

While the company is also focusing on human therapeutics--it dubs these types of proteins for humans Avidocin proteins--it's developing the Purocin proteins for the food safety market targeting Salmonella and E. coli among other pathogens. The company in 2012 struck a deal with DuPont as the exclusive licensee to develop the proteins for food safety applications. AvidBiotics is currently in discussions with multiple companies in the arena of animal health.

AvidBiotics is developing its Avidocin proteins for human use and will be entering the clinic in the not-too-distant future. Knighton describes human prophylaxis and therapeutics as the company's "original and current strategic intent." He said that "with current technology being able to identify pathogens quickly, the time is right for very specific antibacterial approaches--leaving broad spectrum antibiotic approaches limited to only when necessary because the culprit bacteria cannot be identified."

The FDA announced with its progress report on June 30 that, so far, 31 of the antibiotics in question have been withdrawn from the market completely. Animal health industry leaders Zoetis ($ZTS), Bayer and Boehringer Ingelheim are cooperating with the agency in phasing out their products.