Aston Multidisciplinary Research for Antimicrobial Resistance: The AMR4AMR project

Lead Research Organisation: Aston University
Department Name: Sch of Life and Health Sciences

Abstract

Antimicrobial resistance, the ability of microorganisms to overcome almost all of the antimicrobial treatments that we currently have, has been identified as one of the main challenges facing the 21st century, and it has become a critical problem across the globe, including in the developed world. Unless we step up our research efforts and find new approaches to deal with these bugs, it might not be long before we will find ourselves in a situation similar to times before the development of the penicillins, where simple infections turn out to have deadly consequences.

The reasons for the increasing resistance of organisms is many fold, and it is, therefore, going to take a concerted effort of researchers from many different areas to find long-term solutions; antimicrobial resistance presents a spectrum of complex and multifaceted questions, ranging in scope from fundamental scientific research at the horizons of disciplines through to the behaviour of individuals and society. While working across the conventional boundaries between the disciplines, interdisciplinary research, has become well established in the research world, it has not yet been applied in a concerted fashion to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

Aston Interdisciplinary Research for Antimicrobial Resistance: the AMR4AMR project, will generate an active and vibrant research environment that will bring together researchers from across Aston, from disciplines like biology, the physical sciences such as physics and chemistry, pharmacy, engineering, mathematics and statistics, and other key areas like psychology, pharmacy practice, business and computer science, to focus holistically on the problem of antimicrobial drug resistance, and find new and innovative solutions. It is only by using a combination of approaches that we will transform the antimicrobial resistance landscape into a manageable and tractable problem.

Aston is a small and dynamic University, and AMR4AMR will enable us to very effectively bring together our world-leading researchers to identify and develop new ways of tackling the problems of antimicrobial resistance. To add substantial value to this, due to the size and organization of the University, we are uniquely placed to draw in research input from psychology, pharmacy practice, linguistics and our Business School, and we have a proven ability to work closely with businesses, all of which will inform the research and help to translate the science into solutions that can be used effectively in the real world.

Tackling the problem of antimicrobial resistance will bring many benefits; not only will it improve quality of life and provide safer environments in our hospitals and workplaces, it will bring financial benefits as the burden of antimicrobial resistance on our already strained health service is reduced. AMR4AMR will bring together researchers to work on a range of complementary and tailored solutions, such as smarter and cheaper methods for rapid identification of the microorganisms and their resistance, better drugs and smarter ways to deliver them, new materials for anything from implants, such as hip replacements, to better antimicrobial work-surfaces, medicines that are best suited to the patient, from paediatrics to pensioners, helping people to complete course of drugs (not doing so is a major cause of microbial resistance), and better ways of identifying were infections originate and how they spread. In the longer term this research will lead to the goal of "precision medicine", to identify the causes of disease at the molecular level, and to use targeted, combined therapies to address specific disease processes.

Through the generation of an environment that actively supports this interdisciplinary approach, new and innovative science and engineering, and better practices will be developed, and will provide the foundation for ensuring we stay one step ahead of the superbugs.

Planned Impact

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the largest challenges currently facing mankind, and is a global threat. The Aston Multidisciplinary Research for Antimicrobial Resistance: AMR4AMR research programme will pioneer new ways of working across disciplines to address many of the core challenges in overcoming AMR. We will draw in researchers across the disciplines, will actively involve ECRs, and will work with stakeholders, other potential end-users, and the public, all of which will ensure the broadest benefit and influence of the programme. Aston has a strong track record in rapid translation of research into useful impact, and of public education.

Beneficiaries and benefits will include:
- The researchers who engage with the AMR4AMR programme, who will learn new ways of working and by the end of the programme will have gained valuable interdisciplinary skills which will translate back and enrich their future research endeavours. This will apply from ECRs to Professors. We will particularly focus on nurturing and encouragement of our rising star ECRs to engage with the AMR agenda, and creating a new focus for our established leading researchers.
- Businesses who engage with the AMR4AMR programme (for example, through our innovation voucher scheme) will not only allow us to leverage additional resource to support and extend the programme, but will also gain first hand access to world leading research in this field to inform their business models, allowing them to refine their output to reflect the needs of AMR with concomitant benefits for the company (economic) and for society (improved health outcomes). Short-term benefits will be gained from the partnerships formed, knowledge transfer and research undertaken during the programme, and longer term benefits will accrue from the new relationships established during the programme.
- Healthcare practitioners and patients will benefit through improved health outcomes as a consequence of the research findings. This will be broad ranging, from new drugs and delivery systems, through areas such as better "smart" active surfaces and disinfection procedures, through to better compliance with drug regimens and public understanding. While some of these may occur during the programme, some of these are longer-term projects which will be initiated as part of the AMR4AMR programme.
- Business and the academic community will benefit through the development of innovative methodologies, equipment, techniques, technologies and interdisciplinary approaches all of which will enhance the knowledge economy and directly contribute to the health of academic disciplines.
- Policy makers will benefit from an improved evidence base for policy making and resources, materials and ideas for public understanding of policy.
- the NHS, and therefore the broader economy, will benefit from the reduced cost and congestion provided by better therapy, by having better practices and treatments for current infections, and by the reduced likelihood of AMR resistant infections and reduced development of new AMR organisms.
-The public will benefit from the creative output of the project through its strong focus on public engagement

The AMR4AMR programme will also generate a resource of recorded material, novel engagement mechanisms and public education material that will be available beyond the end of the project, and examples of good practice in impact generation.

Publications

10 25 50

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Tarasova E (2018) All-Atom Molecular Dynamics Simulations of Whole Viruses. in The journal of physical chemistry letters

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Tarasova E (2018) Details of charge distribution in stable viral capsid in Journal of Molecular Liquids

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Grela E (2018) Epidemiological impact of waning immunization on a vaccinated population in The European Physical Journal B

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Zhuravlova Z (2017) Investigation of idealized virus capsid model with the dynamic elasticity apparatus in Journal of Mathematical Sciences

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Leira-Iglesias J (2018) Oscillations, travelling fronts and patterns in a supramolecular system. in Nature nanotechnology

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Trotter KD (2019) The interaction of silver(II) complexes with biological macromolecules and antioxidants. in Biometals : an international journal on the role of metal ions in biology, biochemistry, and medicine

 
Title Play 
Description An interactive play in three acts designed to make the audience aware of the issues behind prescribing of antibiotics and the links to resistance, and potential outcomes has performed 4 times at the ThinkTank in Birmingham for Schools and family audiences, and then at the Cheltenham Science Festival to a large audience. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The changes in attitude and understanding of the audience were measured using pre and post performance questions, as well as interactive questioning during the performance. These outcomes are being collated, analysed and written up for publication 
 
Description The AMR4AMR project funded research across a wide variety of different subjects, from psychology and healthcare to engineering. The multidisciplinary projects discovered many things, including new ways of using metals as antimicrobials, including for surfaces and dressings, new ways of using disinfectants in surgery, new would dressings with improved properties, new ways of measuring the activity of new antimicrobials in living organisms, new ways of identify current drugs that have unknown antimicrobial properties, and surprising attitudes to antimicrobials in healthcare prescribing,
Exploitation Route The project funded 14 seedcorn and 4 innovation projects. These were diverse in nature, from psychology to engineering. All the projects were new collaborations and new science, and all yielded new findings that would have relevance to a wide variety of UK academic and industrial sectors. Information is being collated for distribution via the AMR4AMR web site.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

URL http://www.aston.ac.uk/amr4amr
 
Description Addmaster
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Addmaster (UK) Ltd, Staffordshire Technology Park 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2016 
End 12/2017
 
Description Antimicrobial research with F2G
Amount £35,600 (GBP)
Organisation F2G 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2018 
End 10/2018
 
Description Horizon 2020, RISE project
Amount € 730,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 823922 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 02/2019 
End 01/2023
 
Description Antimicrobial Wound Dressings 
Organisation First Water
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have been working with Scapa Healthcare First Water to translate the findings of a seedcorn project on metal impregnated and light activatable wound dressings towards a commercial product.
Collaborator Contribution Scapa have been involved in the testing of the prototype dressings against their standard dressings, and supplying these dressings for comparison on site at Aston.
Impact This is a multidisciplinary project involving biology, materials science and clinical sciences.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Brauer Jena 
Organisation Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU)
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The partnership is a strong research collaboration between Dr Richard Martin at Aston and Professor Delia Brauer and Jena University. This has resulted in knowledge exchange from Aston to Jena in the area of bioactive glasses.
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration resulted in a 3 month placement (Hawshan) at Aston where knowledge echange and training took place in the proparation of bioactive g;asses for antimicrobial activity in, for example, replacement joints.
Impact A poster entitled "Antimicrobial efficacy of strontium and zinc glasses and glass ionomer cements against clinically relevant bacteria" will be presented at 4th Euro BioMat 2017 in Germany.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with Prof Weizhong Lyu at Shenzhen University 
Organisation Shenzhen University
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution International collaboration funded local government at Shenzhen, China. This is a new collaboration with Prof Weizhong Lyu at Shenzhen University. The project is a multidisciplinary project that will develop multifunctional biomaterial dressing for chronic wound healing.
Collaborator Contribution International collaboration funded local government at Shenzhen, China. This is a new collaboration with Prof Weizhong Lyu at Shenzhen University. The project is a multidisciplinary project that will develop multifunctional biomaterial dressing for chronic wound healing.
Impact None
Start Year 2018
 
Description F2G 
Organisation F2G
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The Aston team bring expertise in membrane protein biology and technologies to help F2G develop their current suite of antifungals that are in development by understanding their mode of action at the molecular level.
Collaborator Contribution F2G bring knowledge in drug development in antifungals and a set of antifungal compounds that are in development.
Impact Continuing collaboration. Initial project finished with outcomes: 1) new partnership formed and KTN grant proposal in preparation
Start Year 2017
 
Description PhD studentship with F2G 
Organisation F2G
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Establishment of a PhD studentship project studying membrane proteins in antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance.
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to costs of PhD studentship and materials and expertise
Impact None
Start Year 2018
 
Description Seedcorn projects 
Organisation Aston University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution 12 seedcorn projects, designed to generate new partnerships and initiate new research have been funded, The projects involve >35 academics, and every project is based around a new collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution The collaborations have generated a new cohesive group of researchers working in the field of antimicrobial resistance at Aston, as well as generating new scientific findings and advances.
Impact See the rest of the submission.
Start Year 2015
 
Title COMPOUND FOR TREATING CLOSTRIDIUM DIFFICILE 
Description The invention relates to compounds, compositions and polymers comprising a first component adapted to promote germination of Clostridium difficile (C.diff) and a second component which acts as an antimicrobial agent. Said compounds, compositions and polymers are useful for destroying C.diff where conventional antimicrobial agents are unsuccessful. The compositions can be formulated as coating or materials which actively destroy C.diff which come into contact with it. The germination promotion is induced by bile salts. The invention also relates to the use of such materials as a treatment for C.diff associated diseases and toxic megacolon. 
IP Reference WO2016083819 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2016
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact The patent has been sold on.
 
Description AMR4AMR Roadshow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This was an AMR public engagement event which allowed local academies to attend Aston University for a day and participate in a roadshow comprising lectures and interactive practicals. In excess of 100 students took part in the event which was filmed for educational purposes. A pre/post/6 week post and 12 week post questionnaire was completed and data analysis is being undertaken with colleagues in LSS. The data will be written and submitted to an appropriate journal (? Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019
 
Description AMR4AMR conference and showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This open meeting showcased the research undertaken on the AMR4AMR project to a wide and diverse audience. 120 people attended including from Industry, the funders, a number of Universities, There were talks and a poster session with strong iterations and new links and ideas developed. The meeting ended with a future scoping session of the further development of AMR research, especially focused around Aston activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Antibiotic Awareness 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact We ran a series of events at Aston for students and staff and two local hospitals for patients, professionals and the general public as part of the antibiotic awareness week. This was mainly stands looking at good practice (hand washing etc) and awareness of the misuse of antibiotics. We recruited over 100 new antibiotic guardians as part of the activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Bacteriophage Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On 12.-13.12.2016 the conference "Engineering bacteriophages for treating antimicrobial resistance using computational models" took place at Aston University. The workshop was attended by approximately 30 people. As a result of the interactions between the main organizers (Michael Stich, Dmitry Nerukh) and other Aston staff (Zita Balklava, Sotos Generalis) with the participants, a proposal to the H2020 FET-OPEN call was submitted in January 2017, led by Dmitry Nerukh, called "Engineering bacteriophages for trating antimicrobial resistance by developing and experimentally testing all-atom computer models of entire viruses".
The proposal includes the following workshop participants: Jose Carrascosa, Martha Clokie, George Salmond, Sergey Karabasov, Joachim Koetz, and from within Aston Ziparticipants, a proposal to the H2020 FET-OPEN call was submitted in January 2017, led by Dmitry Nerukh, called "Engineering bacteriophages for treating antimicrobial resistance by developing and experimentally testing all-atom computer models of entire viruses".
The proposal includes the following workshop participants: Jose Carrascosa, Martha Clokie, George Salmond, Sergey Karabasov, Joachim Koetz, and from within Aston Zita Balklava and Sotos Generalis
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Performance of the play "The Drugs Don't Work" at the Cheltenham Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The play "The Drugs Don't Work" was perfomred at the Cheltenham Science Festival. This is a major National Science Festival and engages a diverse public audience. The play introduces the audience to the idea of over prescription of antibiotics and the potential outcomes. The lay is in 3 acts and at the end of each act the audience engages with a number of expert scientists to discuss what they have seen.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at the Lichfield Science and Engineering Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public lecture "Fighting Infection" addressing the problems and possible solutions to the AMR issue. This was presented as the Presidential Lecture of the Lichfield Science and Engineering Society on 14th Feb 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Schools programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We have been running a series of schools engagement programs in the area of antimicrobial resistance, mainly year 10. So far ewe have worked with Aston Engineering Academy and Walsall Academy Woodgreen Academy. More activities planned in 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016