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Always Outnumbered, Finally Outgunned?

Plugging the antibiotic gap

12 Sep 2016

World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.

Get updates on World Antibiotic Awareness Week via: #WorldAntibioticAwareness.

This year, it is set to run from 14-20 November. There are two SCI conferences planned for the start and the end of the week. Plugging the Antibiotics Gap: A Medicinal Chemist's Perspective will be held on 16 November and Highlights in Medicinal Chemistry II on 23 November.

Further details on the events are provided below.

Plugging the Antibiotics Gap: A Medicinal Chemist's Perspective

A truly spectacular example of successful natural selection; bacteria are grizzled heavyweights of evolution with an ability to pass on and exchange their genetic data rivalling even the cast of Geordie Shore.

In terms of raw numbers, bacteria are by far the dominant lifeform on Earth, with a combined biomass surpassing that of animals and plants combined. Fortunately for us humans, there’s only a handful that we need to concern ourselves with on a day-to-day basis. These can be broadly split into the ‘Good’ and the ‘Bad’ - those that assist us (such as bacteria found in your gut and/or pouring yoghurt), and those that cause infection. A subset of the latter group could be termed the ‘Downright Ugly’ - those that cause infection and are resistant to the majority of our considerable artillery of antibiotic regimens. Understandably, it is this group which has drawn the focus of doctors and organisations such as the WHO, with nasties like MRSA and ‘Super Gonorrhea’ having recently drawn particular attention.

This resistance to current drugs is, in part, borne from widespread overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, coupled with a dearth of research funding in the field. Irrespective of its origin, antibiotic resistance has become an immediate and pressing issue for global health; several researchers have painted a bleak and terrifying future of a ‘post-antibiotic era’, in which even minor infection and injury has the potential to spiral rapidly into life-threatening illness.

Fortunately, all is not lost. A renewed interest from both industry and academia has led to a resurgence in antimicrobial drug discovery, with a number of organisations now funding research programmes in this area.

SCI is holding a one-day symposium which will explore the current state-of-the-art in antimicrobial research. Bringing together leading exponents in the field, Professor Laura Piddock (Director of Antibiotic Action) will initiate the programme, setting the scene for the rest of the day by highlighting the global challenge of antibacterial drug resistance. The remaining speakers from academia (Professors Chris Schofield, Oxford and David Spring, Cambridge) and industry (Redx, Evotec, Discuva, Cantab Anti-Infectives and Acetlion) will then discuss their own strategies for discovering new targets and developing new drugs.

Plugging the Antibiotics Gap: A Medicinal Chemist’s Perspective will be held on Wednesday 16 November 2016 at the Alderley Park Conference Centre near Macclesfield. The event is aimed at anyone with an interest in antimicrobial resistance and drug discovery, and will offer an exhibition and poster session alongside fantastic opportunities for networking and collaboration.

Dr Vishal Gulati

Highlights in Medicinal Chemistry II

Also organised by the SCI’s Fine Chemicals Group and following on from the success of the 2014 ‘Highlights in Medicinal Chemistry’ meeting,  this event format will be reprised with a fresh line up of concise, quality presentations. The meeting aims to showcase vignettes of modern medicinal chemistry to bring new thinking to the subject, challenge perception and encourage scientific interaction between researchers. The short presentation format of the meeting will provide a focussed forum to promote examples of medicinal chemistry excellence. Headline speakers include the University of Oxford’s Paul Brennan outlining his group’s work to discover chemical probes for epigenetic proteins, Adam Nelson from the University of Leeds introducing the concept of activity-directed synthesis and Timothy Ritchie discussing how medicinal chemists can increase solubility of their molecules “for free”, without compromising other properties such as permeability and oral bioavailability.

Highlights in Medicinal Chemistry II will be held on Wednesday 23rd November 2016 at the SCI HQ in Belgrave Square, London.

Dr Sarah Major

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