DRIVE-AB to Natural Product Chemistry: CO-ADD on the Road

From the DRIVE-AB conference in Brussels to talking Natural Product Chemistry at RACI's symposium in Sydney. It has been a busy September 2017. CO-ADD’s Program Coordinator Dr Mark Blaskovich reports back.

By Mark Blaskovich

I spent a few days in the air earlier this month travelling to Brussels to participate in a 2 day conference presenting the final results of the IMI ND4BB DRIVE-AB project – a mouthful of acronyms representing the Innovative Medicines Initiative New Drugs for Bad Bugs Driving reinvestment in research and development and responsible antibiotic use. This project, consisting of 15 public and 7 private partners from 12 countries, was designed to find solutions to stimulate antibiotic innovation via a series of work packages, including developing and costing new economic models to promote the desired antibiotic innovation. 

The conference included many familiar faces from the antibiotic resistance world, including representatives of key organisations that CO-ADD is interacting with, such as the Wellcome Trust (Ed Whiting), WHO Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP - Manica Balasegarams), CARB-X (Kevin Outterson) and Genentech (Man-Wah Tan), along with familiar faces from CO-ADD’s Solutions for Drug-Resistant Infections (SDRI 2017) conference earlier this year, Ramanan Laxminarayan and Ursula Theuretzbacher.

Key points presented at the conference included the new WHO analysis of the antibiotic pipeline, along with the final report recommendations to improve antibiotic production. This includes both ‘push’ incentives (increased grant funding for basic research by 50%) and ‘pull’ incentives – primarily by introducing a ‘Market Entry Award’ of $US 1-1.25bn per approved antibiotic. Over 30 years, a MER is predicted to produce 19 novel classes of antibiotics and 55 incrementally approved antibiotics, vs 4 and 15 without one. 

The biggest unanswered question is ‘where does this money come from?’, though there were some compelling arguments that if international collaborative funding can support the billions required for the International Space Station or CERN particle accelerator, one should be able to make the case to save millions of lives.

In my brief time in Brussels, I was able to sample some of the culinary highlights – including waffles, beer and chocolate…

Posters and slides from the conference are available here.

Last week, I had a much shorter trip down to Sydney – first for a visit to the University of Sydney, where I presented a lecture on antibiotic drug discovery to students in the Pharmacology department in the School of Medical Sciences, and then up to Macquarie University, to attend the NSW RACI Natural Products Chemistry Group Annual Symposium.

Given that most antibiotics are derived from natural products, CO-ADD has a strong interest in helping natural products chemists test their isolated pure compounds for antimicrobial activity.  It is apparent that even well-resourced world-recognised researchers have difficulty accessing this capability, evidenced by keynote speaker Brian Stoltz from Caltech utilizing CO-ADD’s services.

CO-ADD was a sponsor of the conference, supplying the poster prizes that were awarded after a difficult selection process. Well done Tomas Richardson-Sanchez (University of Sydney) in first place and Jonathon Ryan (University of NSW) in second place!

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