In an exciting set of recent developments, Atox Bio, a biotechnology company based in Israel, has demonstrated the effectiveness of an interesting new method of combating necrotizing soft tissue infections. Rather than attacking the pathogen directly, Atox Bio has developed a drug known as AB103 which aids the infected person by modulating the immune system’s response to the infection, bolstering the patient’s ability to fight back against the attack.
The drug works by using short peptides that have been designed to bind with the body’s T cells in such a way that the heightened inflammatory response associated with such bacterial infections is reduced. Indeed, the body’s own response to infection is often what results in toxic shock and death. Additionally, AB103 shields bodily tissue from the toxins produced by these pathogens—all without producing harmful side effects of its own—reducing the need for massive debridement and amputation.
A Phase 2 study published in the esteemed medical journal, JAMA Surgery, in 2014 showed that patients who received AB103 experienced, “a faster resolution of organ dysfunction, spent fewer days in the intensive care unit, required fewer days of assisted ventilation, and needed fewer surgical procedures to remove infected tissue.” These encouraging results led the FDA and the European Union to grant AB103 orphan designation, and prompted the FDA to give the product Fast Track status. This designation described in is intended to ensure that therapies for serious conditions are approved and available to patients as soon as it can be concluded that the therapies’ benefits justify their risks.
In June of 2014, Atox Bio secured an investment of $23 million for further development of the new treatment. AB103’s capabilities have caught the eye of many medical professionals who for years have fought the battle against necrotizing soft-tissueinfections and observed their devastating effects up close. The AB103 study’s Principal Investigator Dr. Eileen Bulger, who serves as Professor of Surgery and Chief of Trauma at the University of Washington Harborview Medical Center remarked, “There are few treatment options for this devastating disease. We look forward to continuing with a larger clinical trial to establish the optimal treatment regimen.” One of the most incredible aspects of NF treatment with AB103 stems from the particular mechanism by which the product works to combat these bacterial infections. Because the short peptides of AB103 act upon the body’s T cells and not the bacterium itself, the therapy has the added potential benefit of sidestepping the challenges imposed by increased antibiotic resistance. Faced with the ever-growing dangers arising from the proliferation of drug resistant strains of bacteria, continued innovation in pharmaceutical therapy will be key in waging the battle against NF and infectious diseases like necrotizing fasciitis.