Playing in the Dirt: How ELNs Can Benefit the Next Generation of Antibiotics


The advent of the iChip has allowed scientists to cultivate soil microbes with relative ease. Using ELNs will aid the development of antibiotics found by this technology.
Image Source: Flickr CC user V

Last year, we discussed how antibiotic overuse led to the rise of superbugs. It’s basic evolution. Antibiotics prevent bacterial growth. Bacteria counters this by developing strains that can grow in spite of the antibiotic. That’s why it’s important to only use antibiotics when appropriate and necessary. Minimizing exposure slows bacterial strains developing resistance whereas overprescription speeds it up.

However, no antibiotic remains effective forever. It’s necessary to keep a steady stream of new antibiotic drugs on the market. Unfortunately, due to FDA guidelines passed in 2002, the development of new antibiotics became both expensive and difficult. As a result, many companies turned their attention to creating drugs meant to treat chronic illnesses like cancer or depression.

But the arrival of new technology may change that. A new microfluidic chip allows researchers to culture soil bacteria, which are notoriously difficult to grow in a traditional lab environment. Not only have scientists discovered the first new class of antibiotics in thirty years, the resulting drug has shown high efficacy against a wide range of pathogens.

When such innovation drives antibiotic drug development, it makes sense for laboratories to use available digital tools to support the research. Electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) are the perfect tool to complement this cutting-edge technology.

Identification of Promising Bacteria

The existence of the microfluidic chip allows a larger variety of soil bacteria to be cultured with greater ease than before. Most of the antibiotics we’ve developed so far comes from only 1% of soil bacteria. The chip finally gives us access to the remaining 99%. Imagine how many antibiotics, and other life-saving drugs, are just waiting to be discovered! But with so many possibilities, it becomes even more crucial to keep the data organized and easily searchable. In addition to doing both of these things, ELNs can also tag results with relevant notes and observations as scientists screen these chips for promising products.

Identification of Promising Antibiotics

Because the chip allows us to identify specific microbes of interest, we also need a way to keep track of their products’ potential uses. After isolation, the antibiotics will need to be tested. Are they effective against bacteria? Against which strains? By using an ELN to keep track of these results, researchers can identify the most promising candidates. It makes more sense to develop an antibiotic drug that’s effective against five pathogens instead of one, after all.

Keeping Track of In Vivo Studies

After identification and isolation, promising antibiotics have to go through pre-clinical testing. Toxicity, first in cell culture and then in animal studies, must be determined. Antibiotics that prove to be too toxic will end their development at this stage while low toxicity candidates continue along their track. Many assays will be run at this stage, so the data must be kept in one place that’s conveniently accessible and referenced for all researchers involved.

Management of Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are the final stage of drug development. The guidelines the FDA put in place in 2002 actually doubled the number of study patients required for approval. This in turn increased the amount of clinical data required to be collected and organized. ELNs handle this more efficiently than their paper counterparts, with the added bonus of security and encryption.

ELNs may provide the key to drug development

Although antibiotic drug development has slowed in recent years, new technology may provide the boost the industry needs. With the vast number of potential candidates identified by this method, we need a way to keep the resulting data organized. ELNS are our answer.

Are you interested in learning how ELNs can benefit your laboratory’s research and development? Visit our website today to learn more about the BIOVIA Notebook.

2 thoughts on “Playing in the Dirt: How ELNs Can Benefit the Next Generation of Antibiotics

  1. Its very important to keep detailed result of test and formulas especially when dealing with medicines and a persons health. ELNs can definitely help set the standard and keep through notes on results.

  2. Chelsea, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely correct. It’s crucial to keep good records during antibiotic development. You don’t want to overlook something negative that might be treating an ill person in the future!

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