Phila. biotech strives for greener antibiotic

    A new biotech startup company has moved into the University City Science Center in West Philadelphia.

    They’re developing a greener and cheaper way to make the common antibiotic Clarithromycin, commonly prescribed for pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections and similar ailments.

    To make the drug , companies produce another antibiotic, put it through seven chemical processes, throw away a lot of by-product, and end up with the drug.

    Jorn Benedictus and his business partner found a way to make both products from the start, using a microbe found in dirt.

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    “You see little children being dirty around the mouth when they’ve been out playing in the ground?” Benedictus says. “They have been eating those microbes.”

    The company is now working on producing the drug on a commercial scale. Benedictus says if he can, he’ll reduce the cost of production by about two-thirds as well as reducing toxin runoff.

    “Commercially, it is very important that you can save on cost but, ecologically, it’s also important that you can save on not having poison thrown out,” Benedictus says.

    The Science Center where the lab is located rents out lab space and equipment at subsidized rates to startup businesses.

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