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University to launch new interdisciplinary antimicrobial resistance research network

Press release issued: 14 November 2018

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an escalating global health emergency with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimating that 'superbugs' will kill 1.3 million people in Europe by 2050, including more than 90,000 in the UK, unless we can halt the rise in antibiotic-resistant infections. The University of Bristol is committed to tackling this global challenge and today [Wednesday 14 November] a new cross-faculty and interdisciplinary AMR research network will be launched, funded by the University's Elizabeth Blackwell Institute (EBI).

The new Bristol AMR interdisciplinary research network, 'Bristol AMR', will build on the EPSRC-funded BristolBridge network which helped to 'bridge the gaps' between the physical sciences, engineering and biomedical science communities to find new solutions for tackling AMR. 

Professor Adrian Mulholland from the School of Chemistry and BristolBridge lead, explained: "BristolBridge funding of networking events and projects helped form new collaborations and projects across four of the University's six faculties resulting in a patent, spin-out company (Vitamica Ltd) and a further £3.8 million AMR funding."

The importance of tackling AMR and continuing the legacy of BristolBridge has been recognised as a strategic research priority by the University through the EBI funding a Bristol AMR Research Strand.

Professor Rachael Gooberman-Hill, Director of the EBI, said: "We are delighted to fund Bristol AMR which is one of our new cross-faculty initiatives. These initiatives build on Bristol's world-leading research to tackle challenges that can only be addressed by multidisciplinary research teams."

Bristol AMR is led by a cross-faculty committee with representatives from the Faculties of Life Sciences, Health Sciences, Science, Engineering, Arts and Social Sciences and Law to forge new links via networking events and to create new collaborative pump-priming AMR projects. The network will further help Bristol's interdisciplinary AMR research community to come together to compete for future large-scale funding, strengthening the University as a UK centre of excellence for interdisciplinary AMR research.

Matthew Avison, Professor of Molecular Bacteriology from the Faculty of Life Sciences and Chair of Bristol AMR, said: "The funding from the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute is a such a great boost to the AMR research community and recognition of the extraordinary success we have had in winning funding from the UKRI Tackling AMR – A Cross-Council Initiative - a total of £7.4 million since 2015.

"I am also delighted that we are also receiving further strategic support from the University to fund two PhD studentships to join our MRC/DoH-funded project to study AMR in Thailand plus another share of institutional Global Challenges Research Fund for AMR activities, which shows the University is committed to working with partners across the world to tackle the global challenge of AMR.  So far £90K has now been awarded for activities relating to AMR in low to middle income countries (LMICs) and this will be disbursed through Bristol AMR too.  The University's Alumni Association has also pledged philanthropic support for AMR research to match fund a further two PhD studentships from its legacy funding."

The new Bristol AMR will be launched by Professor Gooberman-Hill and the focus of the event will be to illustrate interdisciplinary research already undertaken at Bristol that has led to potentially transformative outcomes and policy recommendations. The aim is to encourage others to join the Bristol AMR network in tackling AMR.    

At the launch people from across the University will set out how working in an interdisciplinary way has benefited their work in researching AMR in the context of LIMCs; to safely reduce avoidable antibiotic prescribing in primary care and livestock production and discovering and translating new technological solutions to treat and diagnose antibiotic resistant bacteria. The latter include ways of inhibiting bacterial resistance proteins and restoring the activity of failing antimicrobials and performing rapid antibiotic susceptibility testing directly on patient samples to inform effective antibiotic prescribing.

Professors Matthew Avison and Adrian Mulholland will set out the new Bristol AMR pump-priming and networking opportunities. Bristol AMR is also a 'call to action', showcasing how work across all disciplines — including Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Law — is crucial if research is to combat one of the biggest threats to modern medicine.       

Antimicrobial resistance - or AMR - is a global threat, with an estimated 700,000 people dying from resistant infections every year. This week [12-18 November] is World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Further information

About Bristol AMR and AMR research at the University of Bristol
The Bristol AMR interdisciplinary research network is led by a cross-faculty committee comprising Professor Matthew Avison, Dr Paul Race (Life Sciences); Professor Adrian Mulholland, Dr Annela Seddon (Science); Professor Helen Lambert, Dr Kristen Reyher, Dr Michele Barbour (Health Sciences); Dr Martin Homer (Engineering); Dr Ulrika Maude (Arts) and Dr Patricia Lucas (Social Sciences and Law).

Since the launch of the 'Tackling AMR – A Cross-Council AMR initiative' in 2015, the Bristol AMR research community has received £7.4 million of funding from the AMR initiative including EPSRC BristolBridge, ESRC AMR Research Champion (Prof Helen Lambert), large consortium awards for AMR Themes 2, 3 and 4 and a Medical Research Council (MRC)/Department of Health (DoH) 'AMR in a Global Context' development and full award. It has also received Newton Fund support for two projects in China and Columbia, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funding and Innovate UK funding.  

Bristol also leads the £4 million Medical Research Foundation National PhD Training Programme in AMR research, which is training the next generation of AMR researchers through its multidisciplinary AMR studentships its national training cohort of 150 PhD students studying AMR across the UK.     

About the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute – Building new health research communities      
The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research nurtures health and biomedical research at Bristol and beyond. It supports pioneering and world-leading research to tackle today’s most pressing health challenges, striving to achieve better health for all.

The Institute focuses on:

  • building new interdisciplinary health research communities
  • innovative health research from the basic and molecular to clinical and social sciences
  • supporting early career researchers and clinicians
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