Mat Upton and HSF

The University of Plymouth is one step closer to discovering new antibiotics thanks to generous funding from the Hospital Saturday Fund (HSF).

The award will enable the University to further its work to find novel antimicrobials in sea sponges, as well as organise the next meeting of the Antibiotic Discovery Accelerator Network (ABX).

Professors Mat Upton and Kerry Howell have led work to explore the microbiome of sponges which live deep beneath the ocean surface for the past four years.

Professor Howell collects sponges from previously unexplored depths, and Professor Upton’s team investigate the bacteria that live in the sponges to identify whether they have properties that can fight against infection.

The team has already cultured hundreds of novel bacterial strains from deep-sea sponges, some of which have produced antimicrobials that can kill MRSA – now the latest step will see researchers explore the properties of a newly collected batch of sponges.

The funding will also go towards facilitating the next meeting of the ABX network; which the University co-founded to bring together scientists from across the UK with an interest in antimicrobial discovery. The network already has more than 150 members, and the University has facilitated an online presence to enable teams to collaborate and work towards potential solutions more quickly.

No new antibiotics have come into common use for 30 years, and Professor Upton explains why the team’s work is important.

“With infections becoming increasingly drug resistant, there is a real possibility that some common conditions will become untreatable within our lifetime,” he said. 

“So we need to take a ‘One Health’ approach – working to address antimicrobial resistance in humans, animals and the environment. A key aspect of our work at Plymouth and in the ABX Network is discovery of new antibiotics that can be developed towards use in humans.
“This funding is a huge help towards supporting our work to find new antimicrobials that could one day be developed into treatments, and we’re incredibly grateful.”

Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of the Hospital Saturday Fund, said: 

“The Hospital Saturday Fund is delighted to support the University of Plymouth with funding towards research into discovering new antibiotics and its work in finding novel antimicrobials in sea sponges. We are aware of the excellent work being done by the University and how it has the potential to positively impact the lives of many people in the fight against infection and we are pleased to be part of this exciting opportunity.”

Professor Upton is also highlighting the issue in his inaugural Professorial lecture:

'Antibiotic Resistance and the Quest for Discovery' is taking place at the end of World Antibiotic Awareness Week on Wednesday 24 November.

Find out more and book a place.
Mat Upton, Plymouth Pioneer

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

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