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BristolBridge Inaugural Conference

Inaugural conference at Engineers' House Claire Spreadbury

Adrian Mulholland, BristolBridge PI and BristolBridge Co-Is Matthew Avison, Sabine Hauert and Michele Barbour Claire Spreadbury

Jeremy Tavare, Director of the EBI and BristolBridge Co-I, presents PhD student Catherine Tooke with her prize for the best oral flash presentation Katy Turner

20 April 2016

BristolBridge held its inaugural conference on 8 April at Engineers' House which brought together researchers of different disciplines from 12 Schools and Departments. The delegates heard results from the first short projects funded by BristolBridge, viewed posters from the teams of the six newly funded projects and enjoyed presentations from clinical, academic and industrial perspectives which explored the engineering and physical science tools and technologies that are already being applied, or show potential, to tackle the global problem of antimicrobial resistance.

BristolBridge held its inaugural conference “Meeting the Challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance through the Application of Advances in the Engineering and Physical Sciences” on the 8th April, 2016 at Engineers’ House in Clifton Down, Bristol.

One hundred and seven delegates from 12 Schools and Departments (representing four of the University's six Faculties) and external guests from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Imperial College, London, Aston University, the Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology (based at the University of the West of England) and Public Health England (Bristol) Mycology Reference Laboratory attended.

The programme Inaugural Conference Programme (PDF, 397kB) centred on the three research strands BristolBridge is focusing on to help combat AMR (detailed in About).

The first session on developing smart antimicrobial materials was opened with a Keynote presentation by Dr Amber Young, Clinical Lead for the Healing Children’s Burns Research Centre ( based at the Bristol Children's Hospital. Her illuminating presentation set out the clinical dilemma faced by doctors of not knowing whether a burns patient has an infected wound or whether the inflammation observed was part of the normal inflammatory response. She also explained that there is an expectation by a child's parents to see antibiotics prescribed 'just in case' which contibutes to the problem of antibiotic overprescribing and the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Knowing when a wound was critically colonised was crucial as sepsis can quickly develop. Dr Young is collaborating with Dr Toby Jenkins in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath to develop an 'intelligent' burns dressing which develops a colour change upon the presence of toxin producing bacteria. This would be clearly visible to doctors at the patient's bedside and for families once the patient is at home so antibiotic treatment could be started promptly. More details of their work may be found here:

The first pump-priming projects funded by BristolBridge presented their results for the first time. Holly Watkin presented her project which was supervised by Principal Investigator Michele Barbour (Oral and Dental Sciences) and Co-investigators Jeroen van Duijenveldt (Chemistry) and Jim Spencer (Cellular and Molecular Medicine) to develop a single use, gel application of the biocide chlorhexidine (not an antibiotic so no driver for resistance) to be used on the umbilical cord of newborns to prevent omphalitis in developing countries. Chlohexidine is an effective biocide but is highly soluble and easily washed off so it has to be re-applied daily for 7 days following delivery. In developing countries this can be hard to ensure in vulnerable communities, so the sustained release gel formulation can be applied in the maternity clinic once and the baby is protected during its early days at home without the need for further application. Omphalitis accounts for 400,000 deaths per annum and can be caused by antibiotic resistant strains so this represents a simple yet effective and impactful way of reducing the burden of infection and antibiotic use.

Professor Bo Su (Oral and Dental Sciences) also presented his BristolBridge funded project to develop antimicrobial materials for medical implants which are inspired by nature to generate a physical or topological surface which is bactericidal. Cicada wing surfaces are densely covered with sharp cone-shaped nanopillar stuctures which rupture the cell walls of Pseudomonas auruginosa. Prof. Su has previously generated bactericidal diamond nanocone surfaces in his EPSRC-funded work (published in March 2016 - Fisher et al., Biointerphases journal . In his BristolBridge project,  he has worked with his Co-investigators Paul May and Wuge Briscoe (Chemistry) and Angel Nobbs (Oral and Dental Sciences) to start generating novel nanopatterned surfaces on clinically relevant materials which will be able to inhibit and kill a wide range of bacteria and have potential to be used as the next-generation biomedical devices and implants.  Prof. Su has recently been awarded a MRC Innovation grant to explore this exciting work further.

There were also Keynote presentations by Prof. Ed Feil (University of Bath) on the work he has been involved in to construct a database of whole genome sequences from clinical isolates of methicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These data have been used to map the geographical distribution of the various genotypes in the UK and the Replublic of Ireland and this has shown the local and regional distibution of resistant profiles. This has helped with investigations of outbreaks and offers a valuable resource for future surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and outbreak investigation. This work has recently been published in Genome Research.

Dr Vicky Steadman (Selcia Ltd) discussed the iChip technology which allowed the discovery of a new species of soil bacterium Eleftheria terrae and the new class of antibiotic it produced to be isolated and identified as Teixobactin, and the work Selcia has undertaken to elucidate the stereochemistry of this novel antibiotic which has a unique mode of action Selcia scientists elucidate stereochemistry

Professor Tim Gallagher (Chemistry) explored opportunities around drug discovery though tools (such as ChemSpider and BUDE) to screen molecules in the National Compound Collection predictably and reliably. The National Compound Collection was started by Prof. Gallagher in Bristol through the support of EBI Catalyst funding and is now funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Bristol's engineers, physicists, data scientists and infectious disease modellers also showcased their work and how their technologies and tools have relevance for tackling AMR though the development of new diagnostic methods and tools for tracking AMR and understanding the transmission of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

Postdoctoral researchers and PhD students gave invited oral flash (3 minute) presentations and first year PhD student Catherine Tooke (joint Schools of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Chemistry) won a £50 Amazon voucher for the best presentation on her work on 'Computational approaches as an assay for ß-lactam hydolysis in class A ß-lactamases". 

Some presenters have kindly made their slides available and these will accessible shortly.   

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