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The Vice Chancellor officially launches BristolBridge

12 November 2015

On 11 November 2015, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Hugh Brady, officially launched BristolBridge. The event, held in the School of Chemistry, commenced with a drinks reception hosted by the BristolBridge investigators. The formal launch took place in Lecture Theatre 3 with BristolBridge's Principal Investigator, Professor Adrian Mulholland, welcoming the Vice Chancellor and the 130 guests from four of the University's six Faculties. The Vice Chancellor gave an engaging and thoughtful opening address reflecting on his clinical experience of treating bacterial infections in his former renal medicine unit. He remarked on how very opportune the BristolBridge project was in tackling the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. He wished the project all the very best and asked to be appraised of future developments and outcomes.  

Professor Jeremy Tavare, Director of the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research and BristolBridge Co-Investigator, described how the BristolBridge project and funding came about. He gave particular credit to Dr Nina Couzin (the EBI Institute Manager) who co-ordinated the grant bid to the EPSRC 'Bridging the Gaps' programme and Collette Sheahan of the Research Development team in Research and Enterprise Development (RED) who was instrumental in identifying researchers from across the Bristol campus who were already engaged in aspects of antimicrobial resistance research. Collette also worked with Nina to identify those in the engineering and physical science domain who were potentially able to offer expertise to 'bridge the gaps' between their field and biomedical science. Prof. Tavare also praised the highly collaborative and collegiate research environment at Bristol. This helps to engender interdisciplinary research which will be the cornerstone of BristolBridge's mission to bring the engineering and physical science and the biomedical, clinical and veterinary communities together to try and tackle AMR in novel and potentially transformative ways. Prof. Tavare urged physical scientists who think their own expertise is not relevant to AMR research to re-think and not discount any idea they may have - all ideas are worthy of discussing with BristolBridge.  

In Adrian Mulholland's address, he poignantly reminded us that the BristolBridge official launch was taking place on Remembrance Day and how World War 2 was the impetus for the dawn of the antibiotic era. To treat just one patient in 1942 took half the world's supply of penicillin but by 1945, 650 billion units of penicillin were produced per year saving over 100,000 lives in World War 2. In 1945 the chemical structure of penicillin was solved by Dorothy Hodgkin (the Chancellor of the University of Bristol between in 1970-1988) who went on to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. Prof. Mulholland highlighted that the physical sciences such as chemistry, physics, X ray crystallography and quantum mechanics (developed by Paul Dirac, a Bristol alumnus and winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize) have contributed much to the science of antibiotic discovery and production. More recently, quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM, awarded the Nobel Prize in 2013) can be used to model enzyme catalytic mechanisms and Prof. Mulholland's group have shown how it can be used to determine penicillin breakdown by the TEM1 β-lactamase enzyme in penicillin-resistant strains of Escherichia coli (for a video, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRsjMm4eop4). This technique also offers a computational assay for carbapenemase activity in Carbapenem (the 'last resort' antibiotic) resistant strains of Enterobacteriaceae and as such, may be useful for assessing mutations and the design of future antibiotics.

Prof. Mulholland also showcased the first three projects to be funded by BristolBridge and highlighted how the materials science techniques being used may offer novel ways of preventing infection through 1) the development of biomimetic surfaces capable of physically disrupting Gram negative bacteria. 2) the development of biocompatible and antimicrobial coatings for surgical implants that work in situ and prevent the need for revision surgery and long term antibiotic use and 3) the development of a novel, single application gel formulation to provide sustained release of an antimicrobial compound to prevent umbilical cord infection in newborns in developing countries.     

BristolBridge's Impact Lead, Dr Matthew Avison, gave an overview of the problem of antimicrobial resistance and the wider collaborative AMR research effort at Bristol taking place in the Schools of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Veterinary Sciences and Social and Community Medicine which centres on understanding the transmission of antimicrobial resistance genes in the environment and the role people play in prescribing and taking antibiotics and measures designed to stop antibiotic overuse.    

Adrian Mulholland introduced Dr Helen Lambert, Reader in Medical Anthropology in the School of Social and Community Medicine, who rounded off the launch presentations with an introduction to her work as the 'ESRC Champion in AMR' which focuses on highlighting the importance of social science in the growing challenge of AMR.  Her role is to engage social scientists from different social science disciplines and also to advocate to the life science and biomedical community the benefits of engaging social scientists in their AMR research. Helen's website can be accessed here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/social-community-medicine/projects/amr-champion/

In his closing remarks, Prof. Mulholland reminded everyone that funding was available for pump-priming research projects and the second funding call was now open with a deadline for applications on 10 February 2016.           

The launch ended with a wine and cheese reception and a poster session hosted by postdoctoral researchers and PhD students working in the field of AMR and the physical sciences.

BristolBridge Official Launch       

Further information

For further information on BristolBridge, please contact the Manager, Claire Spreadbury at bristolbridge-info@bristol.ac.uk

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