WARF: P170021US02

Nylon-3 Polymers to Treat Fungal Infections


Samuel Gellman, Runhui Liu, Bernard Weisblum, Fang Yun Lim, Nancy Keller, Jin Woo Bok, Christina Hull, Naomi Walsh, Leslie Rank, Mingwei Huang

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in using nylon-3 polymers, alone or in combination with existing drugs, as broad spectrum antifungal agents.
OVERVIEWInvasive fungal infections pose a growing threat, causing an estimated 1.5 million deaths each year worldwide. Ninety percent of the deaths are caused by one of four genera: Cryptococcus, Candida, Aspergillus and Pneumocystis. The need for new antifungal therapies is urgent given the high rate of mortality and growing resistance to first line drugs.

While the need is obvious, only one new class of drug (echinocandins) has been licensed within the past 15 years. One of the major challenges is that fungi are eukaryotes with cell structures and essential proteins similar to humans, leaving a limited number of unique drug targets.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have found that nylon-3 polymers developed in their lab display potent antifungal activity against a broad spectrum of common fungal pathogens, with minimal toxicity towards mammalian cells. The polymers have some activity alone, and when used in combination with existing drugs provide synergistic effects against Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans and Aspergillus fumigatus strains, including some resistant strains.

Synergistic combination offers efficacy with significantly reduced amounts of drug and corresponding toxicity, which could potentially expand the relevant patient population.

The polymers were designed to resemble host-defense peptides (HDPs), which are natural molecules that exhibit antimicrobial activities.
  • Development of synthetic nylon-3 peptides useful in combination therapies against fungal infections
  • Human and veterinary services
  • Potential to make existing drugs more effective
  • Simple and inexpensive to synthesize
  • Minimal toxicity towards human and other eukaryotic cells
  • Biocompatible with mammalian systems
  • Stable under physiological conditions
  • Could be flexibly administered (e.g., via topical, oral or other route)
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTThe polymers display synergistic effects when administered in combination with existing drugs against three of the most common fungal pathogens (including some resistant strains) in vitro: Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans and Aspergillus fumigatus. They exhibit low hemolytic activity and are resistant to proteolytic degradation, thereby increasing their longevity.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Rafael Diaz at or 608-960-9847.
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