Warwick University scientists awarded £3.19m to tackle superbugs


Multi-disciplinary team will take part in a co-ordinated effort to fight their growing prevalence

Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK have been awarded £3.19m to support a project into antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The funding will enable multi-partner collaborations to tackle superbugs as part of a co-ordinated effort to fight their prevalence.

Awarded by a cross research council ‘war cabinet’ on AMR comprising the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the funding is one of the largest UK public grants in AMR research.

The University of Warwick researchers, Chris Dowson, David Roper, Adrian Lloyd of the School of Life Sciences and Matthew Turner of the Department of Physics, will investigate a vital link in the chain of antimicrobial resistance – the bacterial cell wall. The main component of the wall, the peptidoglycan, is the key target of penicillin and other similar antibiotics.

Although it plays an important role, little is known about how peptidoglycan is made and how antibiotics interfere with it at the biochemical, structural and cellular levels. Without this knowledge, the researchers argue, we are unlikely to understand how to develop new, effective antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance needs to be viewed as a long-term problem with no quick fix

The project will pull together a group of world leaders from institutions including the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and Newcastle, in bacterial chemistry, genetics, physics and physiology in the area of peptidoglycan metabolism, structure and architecture.

In addition to academic collaborations, the pharmaceutical industry and charities will also work hand in hand with the scientists on a global scale with the aim of unlocking new types of antibiotics.

Dowson said: 'Antibiotic resistance needs to be viewed as a long-term problem with no quick fix. It will be with us for many generations to come.

To ‘beat the bug’ we need to accelerate discovery activities in partnership with industry. Our multidisciplinary team will develop new insight to key targets to help accelerate this discovery and will provide a platform upon which to train the next generation of researchers.'

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The MRC said UK research councils have ring-fenced £33.5m from the current spending round in an initiative to improve understanding of resistance, and ultimately, our ability to develop new drugs and therapies. These grants have been awarded, under one of the cross-council initiative ‘Understanding resistant bacteria’. The grants will run for 4–5 years.