The rise of multidrug-resistant bacteria is a fast-growing global challenge. By tapping into the medicinal properties of local plants, Moroccan biology professor Adnane Remmal has developed a way to “boost” the efficacy of antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections.

The discovery has put his native country on the global pharmaceutical map through his development of an antibiotic booster drug that combines antibiotics with anti-bacterial properties of local plants.

His invention might help curb the overuse of antibiotics that is leading to antimicrobial resistance and halt the spread of multidrug-resistant (MDR) “superbugs”.

The research and subsequent discovery of the antibiotic booster recently earned him the recognition of the European Patent Office (EPO), which granted him its European Inventor Award 2017.

Professor Adnane developed an antibiotic booster drug that leverages the natural medicinal properties of plants along with the proven microbe-killing abilities of traditional antibiotics.

Adnane found that essential oils can be used to boost the effectiveness of antibiotics through combining antibiotics with anti-bacterial properties of local plants.

In a comment on Adnane’s revolutionary finding, EPO President Benoît Battistelli said in a statement that this pharmaceutical innovation, “Offers a new tool in the fight against the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant microbes.”

After receiving a postgraduate diploma in electrophysiology and cardiovascular pharmacology and a PhD in molecular pharmacology at the Paris XI University, Adnane decided to return to his native Morocco despite enticing offers to stay in France.

“I wished to plant the seed of scientific research in Morocco, which was considered a desert in this field,” Adnane was quoted in a EPO statement as saying.

Adnane earned a second PhD in microbiology and launched a start-up, which filed four patents centred around the natural essential oil mixtures and attracted the attention of a leading pharmaceutical laboratory in Morocco and West Africa.

If approved, Adnane’s “boosted antibiotics” will be the first drug developed and produced by Morocco’s pharma sector. That is a big step for an industry accustomed to manufacturing generics or other drugs under license agreements with foreign drug makers. Its importance is not lost on Adnane.

Currently in the final stages of clinical trials, Remmal’s “boosted antibiotics” are expected to be market-ready in late 2017. Because they use natural molecules that are already tested and approved in the pharmaceutical industry, the new drug is inexpensive to produce and can be sold at an affordable price.

The Moroccan biologist was also the recipient of Innovation Prize for Africa 2015 for his natural livestock supplement, which is also made from essential oils and replaces antibiotics.