Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Back in the 1980s, a false sense of security that infectious diseases were under control helped spur the drug industry to shift its resources away from creating new antibiotics. Since the discovery of penicillin, hailed in the ’40s as the miracle drug, scientists had developed new generations of antibiotics that cured a wide range of diseases.

“There was a sense that the market and the clinical needs were already pretty well satisfied with existing agents,” remembers Keith Bostian, who was a researcher at Merck Research Laboratory in the ’80s. “The hurdle to qualify for a new drug candidate that could be competitive and take market share was getting higher and higher.” As a result, many drug companies turned their basic research efforts to antiviral and antifungal medicines, few of which were on the market.

What a difference a decade makes. Today Keith Bostian is the founding scientist and chief operating officer of Microcide Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a California company created in 1992 to develop novel antibiotics for serious infectious diseases. Bostian typifies the rejuvenated attitude of the pharmaceutical industry, which sees opportunities that didn’t exist in the ’80s to make and market new antibiotics as well as new types of bacterial killers. Across the country, researchers are competing furiously to uncover the private lives of bacteria, probing their genes to learn which are necessary for survival and which are involved in infecting people, and what mechanisms the microbes use to survive antibiotics. And pharmaceutical and biotech companies are nearly stampeding to find significant bacterial targets, create novel methods of attacking them, and be first to bring the new drugs to market.


0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me