Hugh Rogers Fellowship to support the fight against superbugs

Dr Jennifer Payne (from the Cryle Group)

Monash University researcher Dr Jennifer Payne will travel to Boston in early 2018 as one of three Hugh Rogers Fellows announced by the Melbourne Boston Sister Cities Association (MBSCA) in partnership with the City of Melbourne.

Dr Payne, a Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and EMBL Australia Early Career Researcher in the Cryle Lab, focuses on the fight against superbugs, specifically in developing antibiotics that arm our immune systems.

Receiving one of these Fellowships is a testament to the calibre of research undertaken. The purpose of the Hugh Rogers Fellowship is to encourage and support innovative people and ideas by funding research and projects that expand and enhance Melbourne and Boston’s reputation as centres of excellence.

No new antibiotics have reached pharmacy shelves in more than 15 years. Unless new treatments become available, the death toll from antibiotic resistant bacteria is predicted to overtake cancer by 2050* and the World Health Organization has identified antimicrobial resistance as one of the greatest threats to human health*. The deadly pathogens we face are not only resistant to current treatments, but can also evade the body’s own defence strategy – our immune system.

The new antibiotics Dr Payne is developing will directly attack resistant bacteria, while simultaneously activating the immune system and inciting the body’s inherent defence capability.

“It’s scary to think about a world in which we are unable to use antibiotics due to widespread resistance. They are a cornerstone of modern medicine; without antibiotics everyday scratches could become deadly,” Dr Payne said.

“I am excited to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, particularly the chance to collaborate with Daniel Irimia and Felix Ellett at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. They have amazing tools to explore the migration of our immune cells at the individual cell level. I’m looking forward to learning new techniques.”

The Hugh Rogers Fellowships were established to honour the unique contribution that MBSCA co-founder Hugh Rogers made to these two cities.

Dr Payne and her fellow recipients will embark on their trips to Boston in early 2018.

“To take advantage of my time in Boston, I have a jam-packed my six-week trip with experiments. The results we will obtain will steer the development of our new antibiotics in the fight against superbugs,” Dr Payne said.

“It is going to be a whirlwind of a trip.”

* World Health Organization - Antibiotic resistance factsheet

* Review on antimicrobial resistance - Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: Final report an recommendations