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The Antibiotic Discovery Accelerator Network (ABX) was set up by the University of Plymouth to address the bottlenecks in the discovery pipeline.

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The Antibiotic Discovery Accelerator Network (ABX) is an initiative for researchers engaged in antibiotic discovery and aims to encourage sharing of expertise and the development of new collaborations. The University of Plymouth funded the initiative for the initial 18 months, with the prospect of seeking additional future funding from UKRI or other relevant organisations to continue and expand the network activities.

The ABX initiative is being led by early career researchers, whose aim is to bring together researchers in the field to identify gaps in the antibiotics discovery pipeline and provide solutions to the bottlenecks that impede the discovery of novel compounds.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is identified by the World Health Organisation as a global health threat forecast to result in 10,000,000 deaths per year by 2050. The O’Neill report (2016) commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer for the UK Dame Sally Davies outlined a plan for Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance On Ten Fronts.

The discovery of antibiotics with novel mechanism of action is vital to addressing one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today, and ABX intends to assist in addressing this problem and be part of the long-term strategy.

ABX aims to help develop a consortium of UK based academic and commercial sector experts. By sharing expertise, ABX will:

  • identify bottlenecks in the discovery process

  • develop strategies for improving the rate of discovery

  • consolidate collaboration between UK network partners

  • report conclusions to policy makers and research councils.

To do this, the ABX initiative will host a number of small network meetings to set up a dialogue where ideas can be exchanged and ways to collaborate and improve the discovery process can be discussed. If you would like to be involved, please get in contact. The more people involved in this initiative, the more impact we can potentially create and the closer we become to developing a more secure and healthy future. 

Most current antibiotic development initiatives concentrate on the progression of molecules post discovery, and do not focus on the discovery itself. It is estimated that only one compound in 1000 screened will reach the human testing level, and only 20 per cent of those will result in a usable product. In 2017, only seven out of 50 molecules in clinical phase were novel (WHO 2017).

Image: Antibiotic Research

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Do deep sea sponges hold the key to antibiotic resistance?

Mat Upton, Professor in Medical Microbiology and his team from the University of Plymouth think that the solution to antibiotic resistance may lie deep under the surface of the ocean, in dark, cold environments where weird and wonderful sponges live.

Mat, who is also the lead for the University's Antibiotic Resistant Pathogens Research Group, led a talk at TEDxTruro questioning if new antibiotics can be found in deep, dark places.

Marine sponges and the deep-sea ecosystem are comparatively under-studied and under-exploited compared with life in shallower waters – but a team of scientists from the University are identifying and developing potential new antimicrobials produced by the microbiome of sponges which live deep beneath the ocean surface.

ABX Meetings

The first ABX meeting took place at The Eden Project, Cornwall, on Thursday 11 July – Friday 12 July 2019.

The second ABX meeting took place virtually over Zoom on Wednesday 16 December 2020.

Click here for meeting details.

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