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Beyond Antibiotics

A Programme Grant funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The UN Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance estimates that drug-resistant infections could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and an annual economic cost of £69 trillion [1]. There have been significant efforts by national and international agencies to raise awareness of AMR and reduce antibiotic use, but there is still an urgent need to intensify these efforts and, crucially, to develop better diagnostics and alternative therapeutic options.  

The causes of AMR are multiple and complex, but central to the current crisis has been the combination of: (a) overuse and misuse of antibiotics in medical, veterinary and agricultural settings, in part driven by the lack of rapid point-of-care diagnostics, (b) dissemination of antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment through sewage, manure and pharmaceutical manufacturing waste, and (c) a stalled pipeline of novel antibiotics to replace or supplement the loss of existing drugs. Immediately following the 2019 report, The UN issued a call-for-innovation paper [2]. Yet despite this and similar initiatives to stimulate research, development of new antibiotics is widely viewed as commercially unviable and industrial development of alternatives as excessively risky [3]. There have already been essential advances in understanding the biological mechanisms of AMR and its epidemiology from the Biological, Medical and Social Sciences. The aim of this programme is to match this with an equal contribution from the Engineering and Physical Sciences to overcome the technical barriers to translating that understanding into viable, disruptive solutions.  

The primary focus of our EPSRC Programme Grant Scheme funded research (EP/V026623/1) is the development of new technology to enable: better characterisation of bacterial infections, rapid point-of-care diagnostics, high-throughput testing of new therapies, alternatives to antibiotics and infection prevention strategies. As recognised by the UN call-for-innovation [2], the creation of this technology represents a critical unmet need. To have a significant impact, it is essential that this development is also integrated with the wider global efforts on tackling AMR. As detailed below, we will achieve this through extensive engagement with AMR research networks and our clinical, industrial and policy partners. The aim within the 5 year programme is to provide a set of commercially viable and effective technologies to address the need for transformative innovation. 

This research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) Programme Grant Scheme under the reference number EP/V026623/1. 

[1]www.who.int/antimicrobial-resistance/interagency-coordination-group/final-report/en/ 

[2] https://www.who.int/antimicrobial-resistance/interagency-coordination-group/IACG_AMR_Invest_ innovation_research_boost_RD_and_access_110618.pdf  

[3] Singer et al. (2019) The Lancet - in press (DOI:10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30552-3) 

Principal Investigator

Professor Eleanor Stride

Collaborating Institutions

  • The University of Oxford (lead)
  • University College London
  • Ulster University
  • University of Cambridge

Funder

UKRI - Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Programme Grant Scheme EP/V026623/1.

Partners  

  • Karl Storz GmbH & Co KG 
  • Smith + Nephew plc 
  • Boston Scientific Corporation 
  • GSK 
  • Public Health England 
  • Norbrook Laboratories Ltd 
  • National Biofilms Innovation Centre 
  • Phillips International B.V. 
  • Oxford NanoImaging  

 

In this case, cavitation is defined as the emission of broadband acoustic noise during ultrasound insonation. @sarabkeller https://t.co/J3W9Syc1wN

This week @sarabkeller is using the @verasonics ultrasound research system to develop new methods of cavitation monitoring during #biofilm breakup with focused #ultrasound. https://t.co/04gnoCjrsC

There are many challenges in integrating biological systems with engineering. Finding a balance between materials that are acoustically compatible and allow cell growth is crucial, which is made more complex by modulating the device size to have flow but use micro-litre volumes. https://t.co/AECGMtO92Y https://t.co/B7EPbEL3dr

"Creating these devices means we can increase experimental throughput; screening multiple treatment strategies to pinpoint the most effective. In the race against combatting AMR, this type of workflow is essential and bespoke devices like this make it possible."@GarethLuTheryn https://t.co/u50GL3g7Tw https://t.co/0wOyW0JeNx

This research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) Programme Grant Scheme under the reference number EP/V026623/1.