Funding to help tackle superbugs

Illawarra Health and Medical Research affiliate Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen, from UOW’s School of Chemistry and Bioscience, has been awarded $1 million by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The funding is part of the NHMRC’s Investigator Grant scheme, and will fund a five-year research project looking into antimicrobial resistance.

Professor van Oijen, Director of UOW’s Molecular Horizons, was awarded the funding for a project that will explore roadblocks to DNA replication, and implications for antimicrobial resistance.

The research will advance our understanding of antibiotic resistance and effective ways of tackling superbugs. The funding commences in 2021.

“Antimicrobials have transformed human health and saved millions of lives, however, their widespread use (and misuse) has led to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. This means life-saving antimicrobial drugs are losing their ability to save lives, posing a potentially catastrophic threat to public health,” Professor van Oijen said.

“Understanding the molecular relationship between DNA-damaging drug activity and the cellular response that speeds up evolution of drug resistance is critical to tackling the health challenge of antimicrobial resistance.

“My research group has pioneered the development of tools to visualise DNA replication at the molecular level. By integrating microscopy with biochemistry and microbiology we have established methods to monitor in real-time and at the level of individual molecules how the DNA-replication machinery copies DNA.

“We are the only lab in the world with access to these methods and are now provided with a truly unique opportunity to develop a completely new approach to understand and tackle drug resistance.”

IHMRI CEO Distinguished Professor David J. Adams welcomed the NHMRC funding announcement.

“I congratulate Antoine on his success. It is always exciting to see innovative research of the Illawarra recognised on a national level.” 

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