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Pioneering Indian research centre launched to find solutions to excessive use of antibiotics

London: Researchers from the University of Sheffield are set to tackle some of the largest global health problems thanks to a landmark collaboration between the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Government of India Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Nearly £7 million will be invested by the UK, through the MRC and the Newton Fund, and India through the DBT, to develop three major global research centres using high quality research teams – including scientists from the University of Sheffield.

One of the ground-breaking centres, the UK-Indian Centre for Advanced Technology for Minimising the Indiscriminate use of Antibiotics (UKICAT-MA), will focus on research into antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and will be led by the University of Sheffield and University of Bradford to establish smart materials for the detection and target delivery of antibiotics for eye infections.

Stephen Rimmer from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemistry, who is part of the expert team, said: “Resistance to antibiotics is becoming one of the most important challenges of our age.

“A number of challenges exist if we are to avoid descent into a post-antibiotic age, including the development of: new antibiotics; new diagnostics and improved delivery systems.

“UKICAT-MA will establish materials for both detection, at the point-of-care, of ocular infections and the targeted delivery of antibiotics to infected sites in the eye.

“The enormous benefit of detecting something which works in both a UK and Indian environment is that it will help everyone across the world.”

The Centre involves a multidisciplinary team from the University of Sheffield and University of Bradford (Polymer Chemistry, Clinical and Mechanistic Microbiology and L V Prasad Ophthalmology).

Much of the work is based around the idea that certain materials respond to bacteria by changing state on binding to bacteria.

These conformational changes are then either monitored to provide a signal of the presence of the bacteria or they provide a basis for targeting antibiotics to bacteria whilst reducing effects on surrounding tissues.

UKICAT-MA will develop these smart materials to produce contact lenses that give colour indications of bacterial infections and systems for local delivery of therapeutics to infected ocular tissues.

Mark Palmer, MRC Director of International Strategy, said: “With a 100-year history of strategic international collaboration, MRC scientists today collaborate with researchers in more than 100 countries. We know diseases don’t recognise international borders and that addressing health problems around the world demands a global response.

“These exciting partnerships between excellent scientists in India and the UK is a key part of our international effort to pool expertise and resources and deliver research that will make a real difference to global health.”

K VijayRaghavan, Secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, said: “We are acutely aware that the fruits of our partnership can mean better lives for the most needy everywhere and are committed to make the collaboration succeed.”

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