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Birkbeck scientists to take part in DUO-India Fellowship Programme to tackle antibiotic resistance

Professors and students will take part in the UK-India initiative that works to reverse the tide of antibiotic resistance in global infectious bacterial pathogens. The initiative is funded by the ASEM-DUO Academic Exchange Programme.

Professor Sanjib Bhakta from the Department of Biological Sciences and Karina Caetano an MRes Global Infectious Diseases student will take part in an exchange programme with scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT). The programme was created to facilitate educational exchanges between Asia and Europe and encourage academic research collaborations on a balanced and permanent basis. Only institutions that are members of the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) are eligible to participate.

The exchange will last from January to December 2020 and sees Professor Bhakta swap with Professor Anindya Sundar Ghosh (IIT, Kharagpur, India) and Ms Caetano swap with Ms Sarmistha Biswal (IIT, Kharagpur, India) as part of their research into tackling antibiotic resistance in WHO priority pathogens.

Tackling the rise of antimicrobial resistance is central to Professor Bhakta’s research and is important in the fight against untreatable illnesses. The exchange team will pay special attention to the study of the cell-wall of a superbug as it is an important site for attack by β-lactam antibiotics such as penicillin. The ultimate aim of the interdisciplinary project is to characterise the designed peptides against the omega-loop of class A -β-lactamases to reverse antimicrobial resistance in bacteria. The project will offer the ASEM-DUO exchange student fellows the interdisciplinary lab skills training, providing experience of new drug discovery and development.

Professor Bhakta commented: “We must take every possible measure against antibiotic resistance in infectious diseases now rather than later, before this major global health challenge goes beyond our ability to control. If the current trend continues, there will be more than 10 million preventable deaths every year by 2050! This inter-institutional collaboration between UK and India will build a strong international research programme to tackle AMR and accelerate the development of new and effective treatment options. We are thankful to the ASEM-DUO INDIA 2020 support. We are equally appreciative of Newton-Bhabha placement supports and Global Challenges Research Funds to facilitate this international partnership further.”

Professor Anindya Sundar Ghosh adds: "I am really delighted to receive the 2020 DUO-India Professor Fellowship Award with Professor Bhakta.  This fellowship will definitely boost our collaborative research on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and initiate a new arena on designing and assessment of the inhibitory effectiveness of peptides molecules against the conserved amino acids present in the omega-loop of the beta-lactamases. Along with Sarmistha and Karina, both Sanjib and I sincerely look forward to a fruitful collaboration and hope that in future we will be able to expand the same project to some substantial grants."

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