Combating superbugs with AI and big data

Associate Professor Jiangning Song.
Associate Professor Jiangning Song.

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) researcher, Associate Professor Jiangning Song, leads one of the 14 successful Monash research projects that will share $1.5 million in interdisciplinary grants to help tackle significant social and scientific challenges across our strategic research focus areas.

Supported by the Monash Data Futures Institute and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, these grants further interdisciplinary research across AI and data science, sustainable development, and other priority areas in health science and better governance and policy.

Acinetobacter baumannii has been identified by the World Health Organisation as one of the top-priority ‘superbugs’ against which polymyxins are the last resort and no new antibiotics will be available in the near future. Since polymyxins were developed, kidney toxicity has limited their optimal use and bacterial resistance has emerged.

Associate Professor Song’s team will be the first to employ cutting-edge all-atom molecular dynamic simulations, Big Data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to design new-generation polymyxins and target the global challenge of antibiotic resistance.

Their project, titled ‘Integrating AI, big data and smart drug design against superbugs’ will draw on the team’s previous work in the field.

“We recently developed structure-activity-toxicity relationship models for polymyxins and synthesised around 1300 analogues for mechanistic investigation,” Associate Professor Song said.

“This project will address the significant challenge in discovering new-generation polymyxins that can be used against the multi-drug resistant A. baumannii,” he said.

Associate Professor Song, an expert in the field of bioinformatics, will lead a multi-disciplinary team of Monash researchers. This includes Professor Jian Li (Monash BDI); Dr Nitin Patil (Monash BDI); Dr Daniel Schmidt (Faculty of Information Technology); and Professor Philip Thompson (Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences).

This team will be the first to combine artificial intelligence, Big Data and machine learning with traditional biomedical research to discover new-generation polymyxin drugs. Targeting one of the world’s top-priority superbugs, this project will have a major impact on global efforts towards antibiotic discovery.

About the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute

Committed to making the discoveries that will relieve the future burden of disease, the newly established Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University brings together more than 120 internationally-renowned research teams. Our researchers are supported by world-class technology and infrastructure, and partner with industry, clinicians and researchers internationally to enhance lives through discovery.