An alarming number of infections have become hard or impossible to treat due to the high percentage of bacteria resistant to existing antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance is considered one of today’s greatest health threats facing humanity. With innovation in the development of new antibiotics lacking, other solutions are urgently needed. A new EU-funded research and training programme, BREAKthrough, not only aims to discover new antibiotics, but also approaches the problem from a different angle: it aims to develop new compounds that will modify bacteria in a way that makes them vulnerable to existing antibiotics.
A promising solution: breaking through superbugs’ protective shell
BREAKthrough, a new Europe-wide Doctoral Network funded within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) framework, will take on the most notorious type of superbug, Gram-negative bacteria, whose cell envelope (“walls”) prevent antibiotics from entering. The research aims to damage the cell envelope so that it no longer forms an obstacle and enables antibiotics to pass through and kill the bacterial cell. To develop novel compounds that can do this, BREAKthrough brings together experts from both academia and industry, covering fields like bacterial genetics, biophysics, cell biology, organic chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and drug discovery. The project’s outcomes will have a significant scientific and societal impact: not only will the new compounds open new avenues for developing new antibiotics, but they can also form new effective treatments through synergy with already existing antibiotics.The project partners of the BREAKthrough Doctoral Network, will recruit and train eleven doctoral candidates (DCs). The DCs will benefit from the international, intersectoral, and interdisciplinary nature of the BREAKthrough network through secondments at partner organizations. Acquiring an extensive set of scientific, business, and transferrable skills through the training programme, the DCs will be well-prepared to become the next generation of scientists in drug discovery and development, with entrepreneurial flair and a good understanding of the challenges of drug development in an industrial context. The BREAKthrough DC job advertisements can be found on the project website and on the European Commission’s.