Where Have All the Antibiotics Gone? #545

December 21, 2019

Antibiotics. You know the drill. You get a bacterial infection, you get an antibiotic, and a few days or a week later, you're all better. But these days, that idyll is under threat as bacteria evolve to work around our drugs. So... where are the new, better antibiotics? Well, it's time to follow the money. We speak with David Shlaes about how the antibiotic drug pipeline works and why it's drying up. And we'll speak with Maryn McKenna about what happens when one antibiotic drug's price goes through the roof.

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This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.


  • David Shlaes
  • Maryn McKenna

Guest Bios

David Shlaes

Dr David Shlaes, author of "Antibiotics, The Perfect Storm" and "The Drug Makers", has had a thirty-year career in anti-infectives spanning academia and industry with a long-standing scientific interest in antimicrobial resistance. He trained in infectious diseases at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He then taught, maintained an active research program, cared for patients and eventually became Professor of Medicine there. In 1996, Dr Shlaes left academia to become Vice President for Infectious Diseases at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals where he was an important leader in the development of tigecycline. He also was a member of the Forum for Emerging Infections of the National Academy of Sciences for seven years. In 2002, Dr. Shlaes became Executive Vice President, Research and Development for Idenix, Pharmaceuticals. Dr Shlaes has since retired from Anti-infectives Consulting. He remains an Editor for Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, writes a blog at Antibiotics the Perfect Storm, remains active in antibiotic policy areas and spends a good deal of time in France.

Maryn McKenna

Maryn McKenna is a senior writer at WIRED covering health, public health and medicine, including the Covid pandemic, and a faculty member at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Human Health. Before coming to WIRED she freelanced for magazines in the US and Europe including Scientific American, Smithsonian, The New Republic, the Guardian, the New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic. She graduated from Georgetown University, earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and was a Knight journalism fellow at University of Michigan and MIT. She is the author of "Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.""Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA", and "Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service".