Following an earlier contribution of data by Novartis to The Pew Charitable Trust’s Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK), a cloud-based interactive antibiotic discovery tool, the company recently shared two additional datasets from its discontinued antibiotic discovery program. This contribution includes more than 10,000 data points that will be combined with SPARK’s existing data, which has been standardized and organized by a scientific curator, enabling researchers to more easily draw comparisons from different studies. Together, this information will help the platform’s more than 500 registered users learn from past research and generate new insights on how molecules enter and stay inside the hardest-to-treat Gram-negative bacteria.
Both of the new Novartis datasets provide information not previously available to researchers outside of the company, including data from a DNA gyrase program that could inform the development of a novel class of antibacterials inspired by quinolones, a frequently used class of antibiotics. The second dataset includes results from an expansive screening of nearly 200 antibiotics, many of which have been approved for human use, against 22 bacterial strains to identify the common properties of drugs effective at evading one of the key natural defenses of Gram-negative bacteria: efflux pumps. These mechanisms can expel antibiotics from the bacterial cell, even after a drug has successfully penetrated it.
Pew’s SPARK team hopes that many more research and industry discovery programs, including those in academia and nongovernmental organizations, will follow Novartis’ lead in sharing data. Given the stagnant pipeline of new antibiotics in development and a decades-long drought in the innovation of novel types of antibiotics that can overcome resistance in Gram-negative bacteria, improved data sharing via an open-access tool like SPARK is one of our best hopes for catalyzing the innovative drug discovery we need.
Wes Kim is a senior officer and Katie Prosen is a senior associate with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ antibiotic resistance project.