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Antimicrobial Resistance

Collaboration is key to tackling AMR research bottlenecks


Catherine Kettleborough

Associate Director of Biology at Lifearc

Embracing opportunities to work with different types of organisation can break down existing barriers and accelerate development.

The AMR research jigsaw puzzle

Researchers face increasingly complex challenges in AMR drug development. Identifying areas of research likely to accelerate progress is a key component to success, according to Catherine Kettleborough, Head of Biology at LifeArc.

“We review pioneering science and look at how we can take that closer to the development of new medicines.”

Focusing on the early stages of AMR research and seeking to prove whether interfering with specific molecular pathways will have an effect on disease is key. Equally, collaborating with partners in industry and academia to translate these findings into potential new drugs to treat bacterial infections is vital for efficiency.

Clearing research bottlenecks

Kettleborough believes that extensive and wide-ranging collaboration with academic groups, biotechs and pharmaceutical companies can only benefit the wider research community.

Drug discovery practice and primary goals have changed drastically since the 1990s.  

“In the anti-bacterial space there is a big focus now on gram-negative bacteria which can cause infections like pneumonia. A particular challenge with these types of bacteria is that it is difficult to find compounds such as drugs that can get across the bacterial cell wall and then stay inside the cell so they can have an effect.”

The end goal of this type of work involves developing an understanding of the characteristics that compounds aimed at tackling gram-negative bacteria should have, and putting together collections of these compounds that can be shared with groups interested in screening them.

“That could be biotechs, academic laboratories or pharmaceuticals companies. The sharing of information and learning is crucial to speed up drug discovery.”

Standard antibiotics are increasingly ineffective

Resistance to antibiotics makes them increasingly ineffective. The push to develop new antibiotics is therefore vital.

Primary care inform researchers about types of infections and unmet need. It’s then down to those involved at different stages in the drug discovery process to work with each other to share knowledge.

“The important thing is to talk to different groups that are working in this field to minimise overlaps and work together to identify where the gaps in research are. There are a number of big international schemes targeting particular stages of the drug discovery and development process,” Kettleborough says. “While LifeArc can work with these schemes, as a charity we have a bit more fluidity and can be more interactive in terms of collaborating with organisations that will add value.”

Barriers to physically forging a route to market for new antimicrobial drugs are plentiful. As Kettleborough notes, discussions within the research community as to how to overcome those challenges are key. “It’s about asking what part we can play in filling gaps or overcoming bottlenecks and then building new models of working together to ensure we get new antibiotics into primary care.”

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