Putting harmful bacteria in their place

Taking an antibiotic to combat bacterial infection may seem mundane (even if we do know resistance to them is a growing challenge). But when penicillin was first discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928, and later purified for drug use by fellow Nobel prize-winners Chain and Florey, its impact was to revolutionise medical treatment worldwide.

Like many ground-breaking developments, penicillin was the result of a happy accident. Fleming had left bacteria-filled petri dishes in the sink while away on holiday. When he returned, he found that a mould on one of them, Penicillium notatum, had killed colonies of the dangerous Staphylococcus sp. bacteria that causes food poisoning.

Refined penicillin went on to save millions of lives in World War Two, decreasing the death rate from bacterial pneumonia from 18% to 1% and saving the life of one in seven wounded UK soldiers. It also led to the creation of hundreds of synthetic antibiotics that destroy bacteria in the same way. At Abel + Imray we’ve since been involved in a number of related patent applications including EP10519169 (coated antibiotic granules), EP 1180120 (an antibiotic-based gene regulation system) and EP2968446 (hydrochloride salts of an antibiotic compound).

“One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.”
Alexander Fleming