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The Jackson Laboratory and Azitra Receive Department of Defense Grant: Bioengineered Commensals to Fight Staphylococcus Aureus

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--Next-generation anti-infectives designed to address evolving issue of
drug resistance --

The
Jackson Laboratory (JAX)
, a nonprofit biomedical research
institution, and Azitra,
Inc.
, a company developing microbiome-based therapeutics to treat
skin diseases and conditions, have been awarded a $500,000 grant from
the Department of Defense (DoD). The goal of the program is to identify
bioactive compounds produced by Staphylococcus epidermidis (S.
epidermidis
) that can inhibit Staphylococcus aureus (S.
aureus
) and ultimately treat skin infections.

S. aureus is the predominant organism causing many skin problems
including "staph" infections. S. epidermidis is a natural
commensal organism that lives on the skin of humans and is known to
produce bioactive compounds that inhibit S. aureus. The research
conducted under this program will explore the use of potent
antimicrobials derived from S. epidermidis that may be able to
act as natural defense mechanisms against skin infections. By utilizing
different growth mechanisms and genetic tools, JAX and Azitra will
evaluate the ability of diverse S. epidermidis isolates to
inhibit S. aureus and characterize the native antibiotics
produced by S. epidermidis. Building on this initial work, the
JAX/Azitra team will investigate both the bioactive compounds and also
engineer strains of S. epidermidis to produce therapeutic levels
of those bioactives that can be applied to the skin. Julia
Oh
, Ph.D., a skin microbiome expert and assistant professor at JAX,
will serve as the JAX principal investigator for this research, and
Azitra's Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Travis Whitfill, MPH,
will serve as Azitra's principal investigator under this grant.

"The microbiome offers a new approach to understanding skin disease and
developing new strategies to improve patients' lives," said Oh. "This
research will extend our understanding of how the bacteria making up the
microbiome compete and has the potential to generate new tools to combat
challenges such as staph infections."

Antiobiotic resistance is a growing crisis, and the United Nations
General Assembly in September 2016 met to devise strategies to combat
this rising crisis1. A project commissioned by the British
government—the Review of Antimicrobial Resistance—found that by 2050,
there could be as many as 100 million deaths per year and at least $100
trillion in sacrificed gross national product due to resistant bacterial
infections2. In the United States alone, the CDC estimates
that over two million illnesses caused by bacteria are resistant to at
least some classes of antibiotics and of the two million antibiotic
resistant illnesses, over 23,000 deaths occur each year3.

"We are very grateful to receive this funding to support research in an
area that represents such a large and growing need," said Whitfill.
"Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health crisis, and the use of
a new class of antimicrobials against MRSA has tremendous promise. If
this work is successful, we are also looking at extending this platform
beyond S. epidermidis and S. aureus as a broader tool for
novel antibiotic discovery. We are very excited to begin this research
with Dr. Oh's team and JAX to develop a novel approach for preventative
and acute treatment of MRSA and skin infections using Azitra's
microbe-based technology platform."

The challenge posed by S. aureus infection of the skin is growing
and the need for new bioactive compounds to address this problem is
significant. This is especially true with the increasing rate of
development of antibiotic resistance. Many strains of S. aureus
have become resistant to traditional antibiotics; for example,
methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), is a predominant cause of S.
aureus
infections in both the healthcare and community settings.
MRSA is often implicated in acute bacterial skin and skin structure
infections (ABSSSIs). These resistant strains are highly prevalent
across the healthcare continuum and have been implicated as a cause of
morbidity, mortality, and increasing healthcare costs. Current and new
strategies to manage MRSA and S. aureus infections are limited to
small molecules and the use and effectiveness of these antibiotics has
been declining.

About Azitra
Azitra, Inc. is a preclinical stage
biotechnology company combining the power of the microbiome with
cutting-edge genetic engineering to treat skin disease. The Company was
founded in 2014 by scientists from Yale University and works with
world-leading scientists in dermatology, microbiology, and genetic
engineering to advance its consumer health and pharmaceutical programs
to treat atopic dermatitis, dry skin and targeted orphan indications.
For more information visit www.azitrainc.com.

About The Jackson Laboratory
The
Jackson Laboratory
is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research
institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a National Cancer
Institute-designated Cancer Center, a facility in Sacramento,
California, and a genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Connecticut.
It employs 2,200 staff, and its mission is to discover precise genomic
solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the
shared quest to improve human health. To learn more, please visit www.jax.org.

1. High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance. UN Glob. Lead. Commit
Act Antimicrob. Resist. (2016).
2. O'Neill, J. Tackling
Drug-Resistant Infections Globally: Final Report and Recommendations.
(2017).
3. CDC. Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States.
(2017).

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