Professor of Medical Microbiology Dr Mathew Upton

The University of Plymouth is highlighted in a national report showcasing the best collaborations between universities and businesses.

Published by the National Centre for University and Business, the State of the Relationship report 2018 celebrates partnerships between business and higher education. Now in its fifth year, the report shows how these collaborations are tackling some of the biggest challenges of our times, from security and the economy to human health.

The State of the Relationship report features a partnership between the University of Plymouth's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and the UK’s premier industrial biotechnology company, Ingenza Ltd, to tackle antibiotic resistance.

Described by the World Health Organisation as “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today”, antibiotic resistance has been largely driven by the over-use and misuse of antibiotics.

Through the collaboration University of Plymouth researchers have developed a new antimicrobial agent, epidermicin. It has unique and potent activity against MRSA, a leading pathogen causing infections in the community and in hospital patients. The team has developed new ways of producing epidermicin, which could be used as a nasal spray to treat a number of infectious diseases, including those caused by MRSA. High yield production of these antibiotics has only been possible using Ingenza’s unique, innovative biotechnology solutions.

The report says: “The partnership between the University of Plymouth and Ingenza Ltd has been crucial to solving a major hurdle that has previously prevented progression of other new antibiotics.”

The team is now working with experts at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and IBM, using artificial intelligence methods to design in silico novel antibiotics related to epidermicin. They will then investigate their activity against key pathogens, including those listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ‘priority threats’. Ingenza will engineer systems for the production of promising candidate antibiotics that can be progressed into clinical trials.

Dr Mathew Upton, University of Plymouth Associate Professor in Medical Microbiology says: “Our collaboration with Ingenza and the National Physical Laboratory could deliver globally significant health benefits, tackling antibiotic resistance. Ours is a unique consortium and extremely well-placed to take forward joined-up discovery, development and manufacture in ways which have not been done before.”

According to figures from the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), there are now more than 100,000 interactions between businesses and universities each year. Through its Enterprise Solutions team, the University of Plymouth engages with hundreds of businesses, public and third sector organisations.

Rich Adams, Corporate Projects Manager at the University of Plymouth said: “The State of the Relationship report demonstrates what can be achieved when universities and businesses work together. Dr Upton’s work with Ingenza Ltd is a great example of how, by combining their strengths, organisations can deliver real results with global benefits.

“The University of Plymouth works with businesses, as well as charities and public sector organisations in the South West and beyond. We can collaborate in many different ways – from helping them access world-class facilities and equipment to providing them with skills and expertise.” 

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