EU awards 18 million euros for research into new antibiotics

An international consortium of research groups is aiming to develop novel antibiotics against the tuberculosis bacteria and two other deadly bacteria. The European Union has awarded a total of 18 million euros to the RespiriTB and RespiriNTM projects. Researchers from the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) will be taking part in the study, which is set to last six years.

Meindert Lamers, Associate Professor at the LUMC’s Cell and Chemical Biology Department, is the consortium coordinator. ‘Multiple research teams are involvedbecause the phases of this large-scale study call for a range of expertise,’ he explains. ‘We must first identify a suitable protein that is vital tothe bacteria. Then we will test existing resources on this. This will lead to what is known as an inhibitor, a substance that kills the bacteria by inhibiting the protein. And finally, following chemical optimisation, we will test this inhibitor in clinical in-human trials.’ The researchers will also be investigating whether the newly developed product has a synergistic action with bedaquiline, a drug recently developed by research partner Janssen Pharmaceutica for the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Research urgently needed
Lamers is delighted that pharmaceutical and academic institutions are joining forces within the RespiriTB/RespiriNTM consortium. ‘This research is urgently needed. Tuberculosis is difficult and time-consuming to treat, andantibiotic resistance is only making it harder. The two other bacteria take fewer lives, but there are few drugs that cantreat them. Our aim is to develop antibiotics that are more effective andhave a shorter treatment duration. To do so, we will be taking advantage of various weaknesses of these three bacteria, andwill employ multiple approaches during the research programmeto increase our chancesof success.’

Researchers andorganisations
Two researchers from the LUMC– Professor Tom Ottenhoff and Assistant Professor Mariëlle Haks, both from the Infectious Diseases department–and one researcher from Leiden University –Professor Herman Spaink from the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) – will be involved in the study. The other academic institutions that make up the consortium are the Sorbonne, the University of Antwerp, the University of Vienna and the University of Copenhagen. The other partners in the consortiumare Mitologics, FFUND and Janssen Pharmaceutica, which is the company that initiated and is co-fundingthe consortium.

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