DARPA Calls for Research on "Rapidly Adaptable Nanotherapeutics" to Combat Resistance

2 Dec 2011
Andrea Titus

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has put out a call for research to develop a novel kind of bacteria-fighting mechanism, and it was the focus of the most recent Science Friday.  It’s nanotechnology’s response to antibiotic resistance, and it involves little bits of RNA, attached to nanoparticles, that can “turn off” antibiotic resistance within bacterial cells or stop replication. 

The advantage, as nanotechnologist Chad Mirkin points out on Science Friday, is that the genetically based model “moves with the bug,” and can be programmed “on the fly,” making the mechanism widely adaptable to a range of infections.  If successful, the small interfering RNA (siRNA) could be utilized as antibiotic co-therapies, or perhaps even replace antibiotics altogether. If all goes well with the research, according to Mirkin, they’ll enter human trials next year.

As Katie Drummond of the Danger Room explains, the proposal may be a long shot, but it’s not without precedent.  A 2010 study in the Lancet documented the use of siRNA particles to successfully combat Ebola virus in 4 rhesus monkeys.

For more:
Science Friday: Hitting the "Off" Switch on Antibiotic Resistance

The DARPA call for research

The Danger Room: Darpa: Do Away With Antibiotics, Then Destroy All Pathogens

Genomics, Evolution and Pseudoscience: A breakthrough cure for Ebola


Image credit: iStock

Antibiotic Resistance