Science Buddies – Antibiotic discovery as a team effort

Eric Juskewitz, Doctoral Research Fellow, Department of Medical biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Researcher assemble! Teamwork and science bring the endgame to the antibiotic resistance crisis.

Come together right now! Illustration: Oliviero Spinelli

The Good Old Days

Do you remember the time, when your mother told you to stick to a friend on the way home? Probably your first encounter with the buddy system. Two people watching out for each other provides more than just an additional pair of eyes. You shared your stories, knowledge on how to behave in traffic and maybe even a shortcut. Both of you added value to the endeavor and became greater than the sum of two single parts, 1 + 1 = 3!

So why shouldn’t we use the buddy system in science as well?

It’s always good to have friends

Imagine you look at a cylinder, the two rectangle sides indicate it is a brick. Just with the circle side, you discover its true nature and you can get the bigger picture. The DigiBiotics project uses the same principle to solve the main question: “Is that a good antibiotic?” Eight PhD students from different scientific areas have their own approach to solve that question. Examples? Sure, here we go:

Together we are strong. Image by Colourbox.com

Marte asks herself: What do organisms from the ocean floor do against bacteria?

So she dives down with a submarine and samples them.

Tone is wondering: How does an effective antibiotic structure look like?

She uses chemical LEGO bricks and builds her own antibiotics.

Laura thinks about: How will an antibiotic interact with the bacterial surface?

She logs in to the supercomputer, starts her TETRIS and see how she can fit them in the bacterial layers.

My question is: How do resistant bacteria react to new antibiotic compounds?

I open Pandora’s Box and ask the culprits myself.

What can Pandora’s Box tell us?

I have a collection of “nasty and bad” bacteria from hospitals in my box. Those bacteria have a whole bucket full of tools to avoid treatment with antibiotics and are resistant to multiple antibiotics. So how will I find “the one” that will work against them?

At first, I ask my buddies if they found or build an interesting compound. Then I check if the antibiotic compound can kill those bacteria effectively. If we have a winner from those tests, I zoom onto the molecular level and try to figure out: Where and how is this antibiotic working? And not to forget my buddies! Of course, I tell them my findings so they can improve the antibiotic further.

Just open the lid a bit, please. Image by Colourbox.com

But why?

So why are we doing this? Infectious diseases caused by multi drug resistant bacteria are among the leading causes of death worldwide and if we do not handle the crisis, it is estimated that 10 million people will die from them each year around 2050. The modern health system as we know it would change completely. We would be back in the early 20th century. The routine treatment of infections, wounds after surgery or cancer patients will become impossible. Let’s change that outlook!

Eric Juskewitz. Photo: David Jensen

Interested?

Follow me and my buddies on Social Media to stay tuned on our latest results:

@EJuskewitz Twitter

@DigiBiotics Twitter

@DigiBiotics Facebook

@DigiBiotics Instagram

 

Links:

DigiBiotics UiT

DigiBiotics (Centre for Digital Life Norway)

 

 

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