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UQ crowdsourcing the next antibiotic to combat superbugs

The ingenuity and foresight of Queensland researchers has resulted in a world-first effort to crowdsource drugs to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

While new inventors crowdsource funding, scientists from the Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD), based at The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), are crowdsourcing compounds from their colleagues.

CO-ADD has an open invitation to chemists from around the world to submit their compounds for free screening against strains of bacteria and fungi that cause life-threatening infections such as pneumonia and MRSA.

It will result in the world's first open-access compound bank, where researchers can freely access information on the structure and activity of these compounds to help them understand how antibiotics work and the types of compounds that could become effective antibiotics.

Dr Alysha Elliott

Dr Alysha Elliot, part of the Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery team.

This innovative approach aims to help address the desperate need to discover new antibiotics capable of combating superbugs.

CO-ADD Director, Professor Matthew Cooper, said antibiotic resistance cost the Australian economy one billion dollars each year.

"We are heading towards a return to the pre-antibiotic era, when even simple infections caused death," Professor Cooper said.

"Now it is time to act."

UQ scientists are in the process of screening over 50,000 chemical compounds by June 2016, at no cost to the academic providers of the compounds.

CO-ADD identified that each year chemists around the world make millions of compounds, most of which are not designed as antibiotic drugs and would not otherwise be screened for antimicrobial activity.

By screening as many of these compounds as possible, there is a high probability that new, diverse compounds to combat the superbug crisis will be found.

The next antibiotic could be out there, sitting on someone's lab shelf.

CO-ADD has built a network of academic researchers from every continent in the world. To date, CO-ADD has received and screened 30,000 compounds from 86 participating research groups across 26 countries.

There have been some exciting early hits from compounds in Russia, Brazil and Iraq.

CO-ADD is funded by the UK's Wellcome Trust Strategic Award. Wellcome Trust is one of the world's wealthiest charitable foundations, and Professor Cooper has received two of the three grants ever awarded to Australian scientists by this foundation.

Further information

Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated
18 July, 2017

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