Sheffield Researcher Awarded Large Grant
SCARAB: Sheffield Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance And Biofilms
A researcher funded by The Humane Research Trust has been awarded a large grant to promote the use of models of human tissues in the development of new drugs and treatments.
InnovateUK have awarded a grant of nearly £700 000 to a multidisciplinary team of researchers representing infection, immunology, materials science, and chemical & biological engineering. The funding will be used to equip new laboratories to study how bacteria protect themselves from antibiotics when growing in in vitromodels of human tissues such as skin, eye, mouth and bladder.
SCARAB is lead by Prof Pete Monk (Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Diseases) and Dr Esther Karunakaran (Chemical and Biological Engineering), with Prof Sheila MacNeil and Dr Ihtesham ur Rehman (Materials Science), Dr Lynda Partridge (Molecular Biology and Biotechnology) and Prof Catherine Biggs and Dr Annette Taylor (Chemical and Biological Engineering.
The Directors of SCARAB, Pete Monk and Esther Karunakaran, will use the funding to establish a unique facility for the UK that will be be used for world-leading research in antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Prof Monk’s work has received long-term support from the Humane Research Trust, most recently to test new antibacterial drugs in a laboratory model of human skin. The specialised equipment in the SCARAB laboratories will make this work much more effective, deepening our understanding of how infections occur and strongly promote the development of new treatments.
SCARAB will be a national focus for the study of the complex communities of disease-causing bacteria and other organisms known as biofilms. Biofilms are hotbeds of AMR, which protect bacteria from antibiotics and allow them to share the genes that cause AMR. They can form not only on medical devices such as catheters, where they are quite well understood, but also in human tissues such as skin wounds, where there is little current understanding. Together with researchers in pharmaceutical companies and the NHS, we will use SCARAB to develop new and effective treatments for long-term infections.
Harmful bacteria form complex communities, called biofilms, as a normal part of the infection process. If these form in human tissues, it can lead to long-term (chronic) infection, with increasing levels of resistance to normal antibiotics. In skin ulcers, for example, biofilm formation is very hard to treat and can lead to permanent open sores in the elderly and diabetic patients. Chronic, unhealed, wounds are unpleasant for the patient and are very expensive to treat (around £1 billion per year for the NHS). There is currently nowhere in the UK that has the expertise and equipment to study long-term biofilm formation in models of different human tissues. We are creating a centre (SCARAB) that brings doctors, scientists and engineers together to find new ways of fighting biofilm formation. Pharmaceutical companies and NHS researchers will be invited to contribute new ways of testing their therapies in infected tissues, leading to the faster development of the urgently needed therapies for chronic infections in the growing numbers of elderly and diabetic patients now living in the UK.
InnovateUK is the UK’s innovation agency, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/innovate-uk
 The UK has a 5 year AMR Strategy (2013-2018) to:
- Improve the knowledge and understanding of AMR;
- Conserve and steward the effectiveness of existing treatments;
- Stimulate the development of new antibiotics, diagnostics and novel therapies.