WARF: P110358US02

Combatting Biofilms by Disrupting Bacteria Quorum Sensing


Helen Blackwell, Reto Frei, Anthony Breitbach, David Lynn, Adam Broderick

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing methods to inhibit or disperse biofilms of Gram-negative bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa using 2-aminobenzimidazole derivatives.
OVERVIEWBacteria can grow into harmful communities called biofilms that are present almost everywhere on earth – from hospitals to food facilities. Biofilms are especially difficult to clear because they are encased in a protective extracellular matrix that resists host immune response and standard antibiotics.

For many bacteria species, biofilm formation is under the direct control of the cell-cell signaling pathway termed quorum sensing (QS). QS systems coordinate important life-cycle processes like swarming and conjugation.

Disrupting QS in bacteria could be a powerful tool against biofilms. This would especially be important in the fight against Gram-negative bacteria, which have frustrated other modes of attack. This type of bacteria includes a species called Pseudomonas aeruginosa that grows pervasively on medical devices, plagues burn victims and AIDS patients, and causes fatal lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have developed a set of 2-aminobenzimidazole (2-ABI) derivatives that can almost totally inhibit or disperse biofilms by disrupting QS in Gram-negative bacteria, particularly P. aeruginosa. These small molecules have previously been shown to fight Gram-positive biofilm growth.

The compounds can be developed using known methods and applied in many forms, such as anti-biofilm coatings, hydrogels, disinfectants and pharmaceutical compositions. They work by acting as replacements for naturally occurring QS ligands in the ligand-protein binding system of bacteria. In this way, the compounds disturb coordination signals and thereby impede biofilm formation.
  • Inhibiting or dispersing biofilm of Gram-negative bacteria
  • Treating infections of Gram-negative bacteria
  • Uniquely targets the QS pathway
  • Can be used to treat Gram-negative bacterial infection
  • Increases the susceptibility of bacteria to antibiotics
  • Could decrease cost of treating bacterial infections involving biofilms, which exceeds $1 billion per year in the U.S.
  • First evidence linking 2-ABI biofilm agents and QS
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTThe compounds have been shown to inhibit the growth of P. aeruginosa biofilm by more than 90 percent and disperse preformed biofilm by 90 percent.
For More Information About the Inventors
  • Frei R., Breitbach A.S. and Blackwell H.E. 2012. 2-Aminobenzimidazole Derivatives Strongly Inhibit and Disperse Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms. Angewandte Chemie-International Ed. 51, 5226-5229.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Rafael Diaz at or 608-960-9847.
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