University of Leicester receives funding for groundbreaking research in global health and development

Posted by ap507 at May 27, 2016 09:58 AM |
Research to target bacterial infant diarrhoea in the developing world using bacteriophages

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 27 May 2016

Images of Professor Clokie and of Dr Nathan Brown available to download at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/e083t9ylt23z0ig/AACzuz_FLQ-bMd2CAbp4Xs2qa?dl=0

You can watch, download and embed a video clip of Professor Martha Clokie explaining what Bacteriophages are and how they may help with the ever growing problem of antibiotic resistance at: https://youtu.be/wP1c7HJpeSU

A University of Leicester researcher has been awarded funding to develop bacteriophages to target bacterial infant diarrhoea in the developing world where it causes significant mortality.

The University of Leicester has announced that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Professor Martha Clokie, of the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Leicester, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled ‘Developing bacteriophages to eradicate infant Shigella’.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  Professor Clokie’s project is one of more than 40 Grand Challenges Explorations grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

To receive funding, Professor Clokie and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in September 2016.   

Professor Clokie is a bacteriophage biologist at the University and much of her work focuses on the fundamental science needed to underpin the development of phages as novel therapeutics to treat bacteria that are difficult to treat using conventional antibiotics.

She said: “Phages (viruses that kill bacteria) could be given to patients to treat bacteria that cause disease, or they could be given to manipulate human gut bacteria when they have got out of balance, and are associated with disease. 

“Key questions in using phages for treatment or manipulation purposes, is how good are specific phages at removing the bacteria that we intend them to eliminate, and how do they alter the ‘resident’ microbes associated with guts?

“Phages are predicted to be far less damaging to ‘resident’ and ‘helpful’ gut bacteria than conventional antibiotics but to answer this question properly, we have brought together a multidisciplinary team from the USA, Bangladesh and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Dr Nathan Brown has spent the last five years at Oregon State University determining how phages impact bacterial and viral communities in Lakes. He will be joining the University of Leicester to apply the techniques he has learned to a Shigella model. 

“We will capitalise on expertise here at the University of Leicester in order to determine the efficacy of phages to Shigella, and establish how they change the gut flora.  This will be key to future developments where we hope to use phages to target bacterial infant diarrhoea in the developing world where it causes significant mortality.”

Dr Nathan Brown, a phage biologist from Oregon State University added: “In 1919, Felix d'Herelle - one of two discoverers of bacteriophages - first showed that phage therapy was effective against Shigella in patients with dysentery. Nearly 100 years later, our team is excited to work with talented experts and use the considerable technological resources at University of Leicester to determine how phage therapy changes the complex gut ecosystem and impacts Shigella infection.”

Ends

Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Martha Clokie at: mrjc1@leicester.ac.uk

You can watch, download and embed a video clip of Professor Martha Clokie explaining what Bacteriophages are and how they may help with the ever growing problem of antibiotic resistance at: https://youtu.be/wP1c7HJpeSU

Images of Professor Clokie and of Dr Nathan Brown available to download at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/e083t9ylt23z0ig/AACzuz_FLQ-bMd2CAbp4Xs2qa?dl=0

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Launched in 2008, over 1186 projects in more than 61 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants.  The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization.  The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required.  Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

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