Plymouth-led antibiotic discovery network goes global

A network established by staff at the University of Plymouth has launched a new platform to push forward with worldwide antibiotic research and discovery. 

With more than 300 members from across the UK already, the Antibiotic Discovery Accelerator Network (ABX) has launched antibioticdiscovery.com to share expertise and develop new collaborations around the world.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is identified by the World Health Organization as one of the most significant global health threats, forecast to result in 10 million deaths per year by 2050 unless urgently addressed. 

As well as being used to treat common infections, antibiotics underpin our entire modern medical system, making procedures like transplants and joint replacement safe operations. AMR happens when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, and we urgently need new antibiotics to replace the failing ones. No new antibiotics have been introduced into clinical use for 30 years, so ABX was set up to assist in addressing this problem and be part of the long-term strategy to fight AMR.

Research Associate Martha Nash, part of the University of Plymouth’s Biomedical Research Group, co-developed the network and designed the new website. She said: 

“Currently, we are in contact with over 300 researchers around the UK, many of whom have become active members within the network, resulting in successful connections across the UK and beyond. It’s so important to link up not only the scientific community but also the commercial sector, and there are some promising collaborations already underway. We hope that by now launching the bespoke website, we can overcome even more barriers and develop strategies for improving the rate of discovery in the UK and beyond.”

Mat Upton, a Professor in Medical Microbiology whose work focuses on antibiotic discovery, was one of the founder members of the ABX network. He is UK lead on the South Africa – UK Antibiotic Accelerator Initiative in partnership with Professor Rosie Dorrington from Rhodes University. This project started in July and will focus on the discovery of novel compounds from natural sources that have the potential to be developed into new antimicrobial drugs. He said: 

“We know there is an urgent global need to accelerate the discovery of new antimicrobial drugs and bring them to market, and the ABX initiative is part of our effort to bring researchers together and overcome some of the bottlenecks in the discovery process. The new website is the next step to making that happen. The website includes pages where researchers can look for potential collaborators and experts to help move their research forwards.

“We held a meeting at the Eden Project site in June 2019 and that resulted in a number of new collaborations, including with the British Antarctic Survey, with grant applications submitted and new PhD students starting. The more people involved in this initiative, the more impact we can potentially create and the closer we become to developing a more secure and healthy future.”

ABX 2020 meeting

ABX is hosting its 2020 meeting via Zoom on 16 December and welcomes participation from anyone interested in antibiotic discovery – particularly early career researchers and students.

Register your interest for the ABX 2020 meeting