Machine learning-powered antibiotics phenotypic drug discovery

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 21;9(1):5013. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39387-9.


Identification of novel antibiotics remains a major challenge for drug discovery. The present study explores use of phenotypic readouts beyond classical antibacterial growth inhibition adopting a combined multiparametric high content screening and genomic approach. Deployment of the semi-automated bacterial phenotypic fingerprint (BPF) profiling platform in conjunction with a machine learning-powered dataset analysis, effectively allowed us to narrow down, compare and predict compound mode of action (MoA). The method identifies weak antibacterial hits allowing full exploitation of low potency hits frequently discovered by routine antibacterial screening. We demonstrate that BPF classification tool can be successfully used to guide chemical structure activity relationship optimization, enabling antibiotic development and that this approach can be fruitfully applied across species. The BPF classification tool could be potentially applied in primary screening, effectively enabling identification of novel antibacterial compound hits and differentiating their MoA, hence widening the known antibacterial chemical space of existing pharmaceutical compound libraries. More generally, beyond the specific objective of the present work, the proposed approach could be profitably applied to a broader range of diseases amenable to phenotypic drug discovery.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays*
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents