It has long been suspected that Tibotec BVBA's TMC207 acts by targeting the ATP synthase complex of M. tuberculosis, but the mechanism had not been proven, and many scientists have doubted the safety of targeting such a well-conserved enzyme. The company has now confirmed that TMC207 does indeed target the enzyme. Combined with safety data from human trials, the finding lends credibility to a new approach to treating a range of bacterial infections by blocking the bacteria's ability to produce the energy necessary to grow.

Last week, researchers from the Tibotec unit of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ, New Brunswick, N.J.) and colleagues reported in Nature Chemical Biology that by using multiple binding assays and measuring ATP levels after treatment in bacterial strains both resistant to and not resistant to TMC207, they confirmed that the compound selectively binds to subunit c of bacterial ATP synthase.