Research Profile

Friday, 13 April 2018

Material progress on Drug Resistant Infections

The O’Neill Review on AntiMicrobial Resistance has led to new initiatives on the development of new diagnostics and drugs along with calls for improved stewardship and global surveillance and a reminder of the importance of good hygiene!  

Wellcome has a long standing commitment to the challenge of drug resistant infections and has recently made this a priority for sustained support. This has led to a number of exciting new partnerships to support global efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Wellcome's Innovations team has over the last decade supported a variety of drug discovery projects for the development of new antibiotics. For example Summit Therapeutics have  developed a novel antibiotic, Ridinilazole which in clinical trials has shown to offer some improvements over Vancomycin for treatment of drug resistant Clostridium Difficile infection.

Wellcome also supported the company Achaogen who have developed a novel amino glycoside antibiotic, Plazomycin for the treatment of complicated urinary tract infections (cUTIs), including pyelonephritis, and bloodstream infections due to Enterobacteriaceae. 

We also like to explore alternatives to conventional drug approaches. We are delighted to see the recent progress to prevent catheter acquired urinary tract infections (UTIs) using novel materials. The team - led by Wellcome Trust Senior Investigators Morgan Alexander and Paul Williams at the University of Nottingham - used high throughput materials discovery to identify promising new coatings for catheters. Working with a company Camstent they have just received a CE marking for a new catheter - and this device will be trialled in 6 hospitals across the UK.

These promising developments can give us room for optimism - with a real possibility of new interventions in the next year or two...but we know that they are a result of decades of painstaking research and development. We also know that its only a matter of time before resistance emerges. So however promising the pipeline looks now, we must plan for the future, by continuing to pump support into research and development for the very long term.  

Paul Ehrlich, inventor of Salvarsan, one of the first antibiotics ever developed - coined the phrase “magic bullet”.  But there is no magic solution to Drug Resistant Infection - and its not going away any time soon.

But there is science, there is technology and there is human creativity. So with a concerted effort and a willingness to try new approaches, we can be better prepared to face of the complex challenge of Drug Resistant Infections.  

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Translating in Partnership

In recent years there has been a fantastic increase in the appetite of scientists to engage in translation and innovation. Earlier this year, Wellcome together with the Royal Society, Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Academy of Engineering, set out a series of commitments - "Transforming UK Translation”. This is incredibly encouraging and something to celebrate and build on. 

I am convinced that there is so much more that can be done -  starting by making it  easier for researchers/teams to translate their finding or discovery forward to real world impact.  For Wellcome this is an imperative - we fund a lot science - so we want to make sure that there is every opportunity for the great scientific discoveries to be used to help people around the world.   One of the core aims of our innovation strategy is to make the transition between science and translation much, much easier. 

To help make this happen the Innovations team have launched a new set of partnerships with six universities to help encourage and stimulate translation within their ecosystems.

With our partners we are developing a variety of activities (seed funds, mentorship, entrepreneurs in residence, etc) that will help encourage and increase translation - particularly but not exclusively - for Wellcome supported scientists.

These are genuine partnerships - we work together and will make joint decisions on funding - and will agreed a set of success measures. In addition to providing some financial support, Wellcome will also provide additional resources including access to our network of advisors, experts and mentors. We will hold regular meetings for the partners - to encourage interaction between them, share good practice and we will help with introductions to other potential partners, funders and investors to help take promising advances beyond the early stage.

We will continue to identify new partners because in the long term we want to build a broad global network of translation and innovation. We hope that together we can share experience, learn from each other and develop new models of collaboration.

The purpose is simple - to make translation and innovation happen faster, more effectively and with much greater impact.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

New thinking needed on student debt

Jonathan Wolff suggests creative thinking from HM Treasury to resolve the impending crisis of student debt. Although most will be working hard to help fund their studies - perhaps there are one or two economics students with a bit of spare time and imagination who can design a better model for the long term financing of higher education.  They may not even need the promise of a knighthood - just a sporting chance of a system that does not penalise them through future marginal tax rates. That would be a breath of fresh air. 

A version of this was printed as a letter in the Guardian