Science Market Update

$9.5M NIH Grant Will Support "Superbug" Research at UCSD

Posted by Katheryn Rein on Fri, Apr 15, 2016

Since the discovery of the first true antibiotic -penicillin- in 1928, the treatment of bacterial infections has evolved into merely an inconvenient visit to the doctor's office for most of the western world. But just as modern medicine has evolved to make an infected cut no longer equal a death sentence, so too have bacteria in the form of "superbugs". These "superbugs" are bacteria which have become increasingly immune to traditional antibiotic treatments.

High risk populations like the elderly and hospital patients are particularly vulnerable but are not the only groups affected. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that at least 2 million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. Thankfully, the scientific community is rallying around these concerns and continually adding new information to the fight against drug-resistant bacteria.

Drug resistant bacteria, also known as "superbugs"

Most recently, a five-year, $9.5 million award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the NIH was granted to researchers at the University of California, San Diego studying antibiotic resistance. This sizable award will establish an interdisciplinary center on the medical campus where lead scientists from the university will come together to tackle the growing concern of "superbugs" using a new approach to antibiotic research.

Researchers Bernhard Palsson, PhD (right), Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering and Pediatrics, and Victor Nizet, MD (left), Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacy, are leading the team at UCSD and will be focusing on these "superbugs" using the emerging field of systems biology. 

Researchers Bernhard Palsson, PhD and Victor Nizet, MD

“I worry that approaches currently used in the clinic to evaluate antibiotic activity are antiquated and simplistic, and address the drug’s action only on bacteria growing in artificial laboratory media without attention to the human immune system,” Nizet said. “Our research has shown that certain antibiotics can synergize with the natural defenses of our immune system to clear infections in a way that wouldn’t have been predicted by current testing paradigms."

Dr. Palsson is a front-runner in the study of systems biology, a fusion between engineering and biology. Systems biology uses a holistic approach to study the complex interactions within biological systems and takes advantage of the combined power of experimental and computational methods to achieve this. Palsson and Nizet's team plans to use this NIH grant to contribute knowledge to the concern of antibiotic resistance by creating experimental models of antibiotic drugs, living bacterial pathogens, human immune cells, and animal models of infection.

Additional faculty team members on this project include:

  • Rob Knight, PhD. professor of pediatrics and computer sciences and engineering.  Dr. Knight was featured in a previous blog article in 2012 while at CU-Boulder.
  • Joseph Pogliano, PhD, professor of biological sciences.
  • George Sakoulas, MD, associate professor of pediatrics.
  • Pieter Dorrestein, PhD, professor of pediatrics and pharmacy.
  • Adam Feist, PhD, associate project scientist in bioengineering.

Twice a year, Biotechnology Calendar Inc. hosts the Biotechnology Vendor Showcase™ Event at UC San Diego. Laboratory equipment suppliers and chemical supply companies are invited to demonstrate their products and connect with UCSD researchers and lab managers on site at this highly funded campus. Last year, a total of 929 attendees from 54 different research buildings and 61 on-campus departments attended between both events in 2015.

The 42nd Semiannual Biotechnology Vendor Showcase event at UC San Diego will be held on Thursday, August 25, 2016. For more information about participating in the UCSD life science trade fair, click the button below:

 

Learn More About UCSD Event

 

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