The Pew Charitable Trusts announced Aug. 7 that it will create a digital platform allowing researchers to share data, ideas, and insights to spur the discovery of innovative new antibiotics needed in the battle against the growing global threat of drug-resistant bacteria. The new Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK), a dynamic, cloud-based resource, will integrate research data with analysis by leading experts and provide an opportunity for real-time collaboration among scientists in industry, academia, government, and the nonprofit sector. The need for such an initiative has been echoed by leading scientists and other experts.
“We believe collaboration is key for finding new treatments for diseases that present medical challenges. Antibiotic resistance and specifically Gram-negative bacteria represent a high risk to modern medicine, which is why we wholeheartedly support Pew’s Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK), which will speed up delivery of much-needed antimicrobial breakthroughs.”
—David Pardoe, head of innovation and initiatives, LifeArc
“Sharing well-organized, easily searchable, pre-publication drug discovery information with one’s own lab mates and collaborators has been incredibly useful for the TB Drug Accelerator’s work to spur the discovery and development of novel compounds against tuberculosis. Pew’s Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK) takes a similar approach to curating and sharing information to advance Gram-negative drug discovery and also uses the same cloud-based platform—Collaborative Drug Discovery—which was designed for precisely this kind of data-sharing.”
—Carl Nathan, chairman of the department of microbiology and immunology, Weill Cornell Medicine; and co-chair, Program in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis, Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences
“We need as much impetus as possible to bolster drug development for new antibiotic treatments, and we hope that SPARK, together with GARDP’s [the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership’s] upcoming Antibiotic Memory Recovery Initiative, will play an important role in the collaborative efforts needed make sure no stone is left unturned.”
—Jean-Pierre Paccaud, director of business development and corporate strategy, GARDP
“I am delighted to see Pew creating SPARK! The antibiotic pipeline is frighteningly thin. The most concerning threats are the Gram-negative bacteria—there are even now strains for which we have no reliable therapies. Revitalizing the pipeline and ultimately bringing forward new drugs to treat infections caused by such bacteria will require concerted collaborative efforts among stakeholders—industry, government, nonprofits, and academia—acting together to support discovery and development of new types of antibiotics and novel therapies. An interactive information-sharing tool like SPARK will be an invaluable resource not only to researchers already working on antibiotic R&D, but also for new scientists entering the field.”
—John Rex, chief medical officer, F2G Ltd.; chief strategy officer, CARB-X; and expert-in-residence, Wellcome Trust
“The Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK) proposed by The Pew Charitable Trusts is a highly anticipated and needed resource that will create a bridge between academia and industry, and collate and curate data available across the antibiotic research community. As often is true in science, addressing one foundational basic science challenge enables novel advances and breakthroughs in many related areas. By focusing on how to get small molecules into, and keep them inside of, Gram-negative bacteria, SPARK will undoubtedly integrate information across disciplines and enable the next level in the discovery and development of antibiotics effective against these bacteria.”
—Helen I. Zgurskaya, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of Oklahoma
“Despite the need for new antimicrobials that target tough-to-treat Gram-negative bacterial infections, very few new, effective antibiotics have been brought to the market in the last decades. Figuring out how to get antibiotics into multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria, such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, and prevent the bacteria’s efflux pumps from ejecting them has been a major challenge to antimicrobial drug development. Solving this problem requires effective information-sharing across the antibiotic research community so that scientists can learn from previous efforts—successes and failures—and precious time is not wasted reinventing the wheel. Pew’s Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK) will complement the efforts of the IMI Translocation Information Centre, and we look forward to coordinating on the dissemination of information and knowledge to advance antibiotic innovation.”
—Mathias Winterhalter, professor of biophysics, Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, on behalf of the Innovative Medicines Initiative’s Translocation project
“Data should be shared, even negative data. If we only rely on what gets published, we’re missing out. The more that we can share early stage data, the better off we’re going to be.”
—Brad Sherborne, director of chemistry modeling and informatics, Merck & Co. Inc.
“As an infectious diseases physician, I see more and more patients who are desperate for new antibiotics, particularly for extremely difficult-to-treat Gram-negative infections. Significant scientific, economic, and regulatory hurdles continue to stifle innovation. Pew has been a steadfast partner working with Infectious Diseases Society of America and others to address these challenges with a variety of creative and robust approaches. By facilitating data-sharing, SPARK will help foster the collaboration necessary to overcome some of the difficulties impeding antibiotic R&D and bring forth the lifesaving new antibiotics our patients so urgently need.”
—Helen Boucher, director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program and the Ventricular Assist Device and Cardiac Transplant Infectious Diseases Program, Tufts Medical Center; associate professor, Tufts University School of Medicine; and board of directors, Infectious Diseases Society of America
“Web-based collaborative tools remove friction and eliminate information-transfer delays. Our technology is unique for supporting secure private, collaborative, and public data workflows. The concept is to leverage the internet so that together we evolve faster than the superbugs.”
—Barry Bunin, CEO of Collaborative Drug Discovery Inc.
Interactive tool will allow scientists to exchange data and ideas, find and design new drugs
Pew’s publicly available database will help scientists build on previous research, generate new insights