Joining forces in the search for an agent against MRSA

New project pools the competences of the HZI and the Lead Discovery Center in Dortmund

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most common and dangerous hospital germs.Hospital-acquired germs are a steadily increasing problem in Germany. This is the case because many of these germs are resistant to most of the conventional antibiotics. Therefore, there is an urgent need for new agents. In this search, scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig and of the Lead Discovery Center (LDC) Dortmund have joined forces aiming to discover an agent against the much-feared Hospital germ MRSA.

The acronym MRSA means "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus". Methicillin is a test Antibiotic that is used to check the sensitivity of pathogens to antibiotics. Pathogens that are resistant to this test agent are also resistant to virtually all other antibiotics. This means that there is no antidote against this germ that can elicit a number of infections, which can have fatal consequences, especially in hospitals, where an estimated 2,000 patients die from this cause every year. Therefore, there is an urgent need for new agents against this pathogen.

"In basic research, we often face the problem that it is difficult to translate newly discovered approaches into commercially and medically valuable products," says Prof Mark Brönstrup, who is the director of the "Chemical Biology" department at the HZI. This is where the collaboration with the LDC comes into play. The goal of the project is to find agents against a new target protein of MRSA, optimise these agents and test them in the live organism.

The scientists are pursuing a special approach, because they are specifically searching for agents that do not kill the bacteria, but render them non-infectious, so-called pathoblockers. "There are two main advantages that can be reaped from only hampering the bacteria rather than killing them with antibiotics. Firstly, the development of resistance would be slowed significantly and, secondly, our natural microflora would not be damaged," says Brönstrup, who directs this project at the HZI.

The collaboration of the LDC and the HZI is a major opportunity in this regard. "By combining our competence, experience and infrastructure, we are generating ideal conditions for the identification of a new candidate drugs against MRSA, says Bert Klebl, who is the managing director of the LDC. "This is our second cooperation project with the Helmholtz Association. We look forward very much to this cooperation with the HZI aimed at advancing urgently needed innovations in the field of antibacterial agents."

The first phase of the project will be devoted to identifying potential candidates. Utilising the infrastructure of the LDC, several 100,000 substances will be tested for this purpose in a high-throughput screening process. Active substances will be profiled in parallel in various specialised research groups of the HZI and the LDC, and their properties will be optimised.

The project is sponsored by funds from the HZI and the Helmholtz Validation Fund of the Helmholtz Association, which uses these funds to support a number of cooperation projects between Helmholtz centres and the LDC.


The Lead Discovery Center

The Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC) is an incubator for translational projects in the field of low molecular drug research. The LDC picks promising projects from academic research and continues their development - in close cooperation with leading partners from academic research and the industry - to the level of pharmaceutical leads that can be transferred seamlessly to industrial development. LDC engages in strategic research alliances with partners including AstraZeneca, Bayer, Merck Serono and Daiichi Sankyo as well as leading academic drug discovery centres throughout the world. For more information, please visit: www.lead-discovery.de




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