Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance Together: Monash Warwick Alliance Workshop to develop a joint approach

The alarming rise in resistance to our existing arsenal of antimicrobial drugs poses a major global health threat. Our only hope to address a problem as significant and complex as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is by new and interdisciplinary thinking, which can only be realised through joint and coordinated efforts.

Both Monash University and the University of Warwick harbour world leading research groups focused on infection and AMR. The world class research at our universities spans key disciplines relevant to the problem of AMR, including infection biology, chemical and synthetic biology, synthetic chemistry and engineering.

Twenty investigators from both universities met for a 2-day workshop at Warwick’s conference centre in Venice at the end of March 2019.

Three representatives from key external organisations in the AMR field, the Wellcome Trust, Carb-X and Genentech, also contributed to the workshop to ensure that the discussions held were relevant to industry and government efforts in AMR, as well as the broader community.The overarching aim of the event was to leverage complementary expertise across both universities and to discuss an integrated approach to tackling AMR.

Professor Greg Challis, Monash Warwick Alliance Professor of Sustainable Chemistry, and co-organiser of the workshop commented:

"On the first day of the workshop, we each gave short presentations on our respective areas of research. Our joint main strengths are in antibiotic discovery and development, mechanisms of antibiotic action and resistance, infection biology and pre-clinical models for multiple important human infections, and sophisticated imaging approaches that are underpinned by outstanding platform technologies. In addition to new drug discovery, our group has expertise in the development of new approaches to overcoming antimicrobial resistance, for example through modulation of the immune system or phage therapy.

These are likely to play an important role in future solutions. The high degree of complementarity between the research being carried out at Monash and Warwick was striking and allowed us, on the second day, to identify the factors that differentiate our joint work from that being conducted by other research institutions. This was important for defining the focus of our future efforts in a way that will be attractive to external funders.”

His co-organiser, Professor Ana Traven, Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Monash, added:

"We also discussed the training opportunities for early carrier researchers (students and postdoctoral fellows). It is important that the next generation receives training in several disciplines, including microbiology, chemical and synthetic biology, structural biology and synthetic chemistry, but also understands, for example, the economics driving the decision making of companies in this field.

Such a cross-disciplinary education is seldom available in current undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral training programs, and yet is essential for driving the next wave of discoveries to combat AMR. Here too the Alliance and our cross-discipline linkages, can ensure this collective effort succeeds.”