Zemer Gitai Receives Princeton Accelerator Fund Support

Grants, Fellowships and Awards
Posted on March 9, 2021

Seven technologies that address some of society’s biggest challenges — from foolproof antibiotics to low-cost water purification — will receive support for research and development through Princeton’s Intellectual Property Accelerator Fund

Among them are Zemer Gitai's work on a new method for discovering compounds with antibiotic activity aims to address the looming crisis posed by drug-resistant bacteria. Zemer Gitai and his team have developed a process for identifying new antibiotics, including ones that work against Gram-negative bacteria, which are hard to kill due to their protective coating. The team created a series of steps that allow them to identify new classes of antibiotics, and used this drug-discovery pipeline to identify a new compound called Irrestistin-16. Like a poisoned arrow, the drug pokes holes in bacterial membranes and disrupts an essential metabolic pathway. The team has shown that the new compound cures mice infected with a resistance-prone Gram-negative pathogen. The IP Accelerator funding will go to support studies that demonstrate the superiority of Irresistin-16 to existing antibiotics against multi-drug resistant strains, and to screen additional compounds.

The Accelerator program gives discoveries an extra push through the development pipeline to bring technologies to the stage where they are ready for further investment, from either a startup or a larger company. 

“Princeton researchers work at the leading edge of discovery, forging new directions by pursuing original ideas,” said John Ritter, director of the Office of Technology Licensing, a division of Princeton University’s Office of the Dean for Research. “When our researchers make a discovery with the potential to benefit society, they don’t always have the funding or research staff to show that the discovery can become a viable product or service – that is where this fund can help.”

Faculty researchers may use the funding to fuel the construction of a prototype, the collection of extra performance data, or the exploration of materials, durability, scalability or other aspects of the technology. The competitive application process involves review by members of the Princeton faculty and experienced venture capital investors. The winning projects are ones with a combination of scientific or technical merit, feasibility, and the potential to benefit the public.