North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Kim Lewis, pro­fessor of biology Slava Epstein, and their team’s pio­neering research pre­senting a new antibi­otic that kills pathogens without encoun­tering any detectable resis­tance has cap­tured head­lines world­wide and drawn wide­spread praise from the sci­en­tific community.

The ground­breaking research was pub­lished Wednesday in the journal Nature, and the news quickly gained momentum. The New York Times, CBS News, BBC World News, National Geo­graphic, and The Wall Street Journal were among the many news out­lets fea­turing cov­erage of this new antibi­otic, called teixobactin, and the North­eastern research that has paved the way for its dis­covery. The story rock­eted to the top of BBC World News’ “Most Pop­ular” sto­ries sec­tion on its home­page by midday Thursday, and also rose to No. 2 on The New York Times website’s “most emailed” stories.

Rarely is a dis­covery made that improves the health of human beings around the globe,” said Joseph E. Aoun, pres­i­dent of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “Pro­fessor Kim Lewis and his team have made his­tory with their dis­covery in a field that has not seen a break­through in nearly three decades. This inno­v­a­tive and uncon­ven­tional break­through is pre­cisely the kind of research North­eastern brings to the world.”

The impres­sive work dove­tails with Northeastern’s focus on use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges, par­tic­u­larly in health, secu­rity, and sus­tain­ability, and builds upon the university’s leading research in the areas of drug dis­covery and delivery.

Lewis noted that this marks the first dis­covery of an antibi­otic to which resis­tance by muta­tions of pathogens have not been iden­ti­fied. It also presents a promising oppor­tu­nity to building upon these find­ings and ulti­mately develop drugs that can treat chronic infec­tions in humans caused by staphy­lo­coccus aureus, or MRSA, that are highly resis­tant to antibi­otics, as well as tuber­cu­losis, which involves a com­bi­na­tion of ther­a­pies with neg­a­tive side effects.

The most intriguing thing about this com­pound is the apparent absence of resis­tance devel­op­ment,” Lewis told National Public Radio. “This for all prac­tical pur­poses may be a largely resistance-​​free compound.”

The story was widely shared via social media, with many from the North­eastern com­mu­nity and beyond applauding the work and con­grat­u­lating the researchers involved.

Lewis and his col­leagues say pathogens’ resis­tance to antibi­otics is causing a public health crisis, one in which infec­tions have for years remained one step ahead of researchers. But he and North­eastern biology pro­fessor Slava Epstein devel­oped a novel method for growing uncul­tured bacteria—a pre­vi­ously untapped source of antibi­otics beyond those cre­ated by syn­thetic means. Their approach involves the iChip, a minia­ture device that can iso­late and help grow single cells in their nat­ural envi­ron­ment. Their inno­v­a­tive method to bring the envi­ron­ment into the lab holds great promise in helping to combat this health crisis.

The iChip, a miniature device professor Slava Epstein’s team created that can isolate and help grow single cells in their natural environment, and thereby provide researchers with much improved access to uncultured bacteria. Photo courtesy of Slava Epstein/Northeastern University.

The iChip, a minia­ture device pro­fessor Slava Epstein’s team cre­ated that can iso­late and help grow single cells in their nat­ural envi­ron­ment, and thereby pro­vide researchers with much improved access to uncul­tured bac­teria. Photo cour­tesy of Slava Epstein/​Northeastern University.

The National Insti­tutes of Health, in part, funded the research. “This dis­covery is exactly the kind of break­through we were hoping for when we started the Trans­for­ma­tive Research Awards pro­gram, which sup­ports excep­tion­ally inno­v­a­tive, paradigm-​​shifting research projects,” said James Anderson, MD, PhD, director of the Divi­sion of Pro­gram Coor­di­na­tion, Plan­ning and Strategic Ini­tia­tives at the NIH. “The work of Dr. Lewis and his team holds great impor­tance because it is leading to tan­gible out­comes that have the poten­tial to ben­efit patients.”