Stories of Australian Science 2015: CO-ADD feature

Could your lab have the next antibiotic? Could your newly synthesised molecule kill a superbug?

Science of Australian Science 2015Matt Cooper can tell you.

His team is offering a free screening service for the world’s chemists to test their compounds against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, helping them to potentially find a new antibiotic that will fight the rise of these ‘superbugs’.

“We’re helping the community unlock the hidden value of these chemicals,” says Matt, whose team is from the    Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD), a not-for-profit, global initiative of The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. The screening began in February 2015, and Matt has already received thousands of samples from locations including India, Singapore, New Zealand, France, Israel, UK and the USA.

He says he plans to help the global chemistry community assess the potential of a vast range of compounds that have never been screened for antibiotic properties. His work includes testing each chemical against five key superbug bacteria, two types of fungi, and human cells, to ensure the compounds are effective and safe for humans. In pharmaceutical libraries, most molecules come from the same small number of sources and have already been screened by multiple pharmaceutical companies.

Matt’s group has invested more than $5 million in setting up the team, assays and equipment,in one of the few open-access labs around the world equipped for this work. The project is also one of only two outside the UK to be supported by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award.

Matt’s research was inspired by his travels around South East Asia, India, Nepal and Pakistan more than 20 years ago, where he was moved by the number of people dying from easily preventable infections. He also saw the burden wasn’t limited to developing countries. In Australia, 170 people die every week from infections.

Read other features in Stories of Australian Science here.

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