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OU Professor's Company Combats Pressing Health Issue

OU Professor Combats Health Issue

Dr. Anne Pereira, a professor and associate dean at the OU College of Pharmacy, co-founded a company to combat antibiotic-resistant infections.

Both a scientist and a businesswoman, Dr. Anne Pereira co-founded a company to combat antibiotic-resistant infections. Dr. Pereira is a professor and associate dean of research in the OU College of Pharmacy, as well as dean of the Graduate College at the OU Health Sciences Center. Her company is Biolytx, an emerging drug development company confronting the crisis in antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Pereira co-founded Biolytx in 2005, and based the company around technology she developed at the OU Health Sciences Center and licensed from the university through the Office of Technology Development.

At the time, biotechnology was a fledgling industry in Oklahoma. She pioneered the establishment of this unfamiliar enterprise in response to a troubling void in the marketplace for antibacterial drug development.

“Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global human health,” said Pereira. “The morbidity and mortality from severe infection in the U.S. alone is estimated at an annual cost of many billions. In the European Union, lost productivity and health care costs due to multi-drug-resistant infections is estimated at 1.5 billion euro per year.”  

Drug-resistant infections have a weighty price tag, especially when the real cost is human life. Luckily, Dr. Pereira’s research focuses on combating these pathogens. Specifically, she is developing novel antibiotic peptides to treat serious hospital-acquired infections, including those resistant to current antibiotics.

“The long-term goal of Biolytx is to address the need for new drugs to treat bad ‘bugs,’” said Pereira.

Using her research as the basis for her company, Dr. Pereira wants her treatments to go through the phases of drug development in order to be available on the market.

“Ultimately, all of us in drug discovery and scientific research want to be able to make a difference to the health of our communities,” said Pereira.

And the need for these new treatments is serious. “Patients with hospital-acquired infections are more likely to die, and the odds are worse if the infections are due to drug-resistant pathogens,” said Pereira. “Exacerbating the problem is that many of the large pharmaceutical companies have pulled out of the antibacterial drug discovery arena.”

Biolytx fills the gap for this critical need.

“If we are successful, our contribution would be significant since we would have developed a first-in-class peptide antibiotic for the treatment of severe hospital-acquired infections,” said Pereira.

With a new round of funding secured, the biotechnology company now has an executive management team that will lead efforts forward through the next phases of drug development.

In addition to her work in drug development and business ownership, Dr. Pereira also researches neuroinflammatory conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and ocular wound healing.