This illustration depicts a three-dimensional (3D) computer-generated image of a cluster of rod-shaped drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, the pathogen responsible for causing the disease tuberculosis (TB). The artistic recreation was based upon scanning electron micrographic imagery.

The University of Cambridge has been awarded £2 million from the UK Medical Research Council and the Government of India’s Department for Biotechnology to develop a partnership with the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT) in Chennai.

I am delighted that Cambridge has been given the opportunity to work on a disease of global importance through the development of this partnership

Sharon Peacock

The Cambridge-Chennai Centre Partnership on Antimicrobial Resistant Tuberculosis will bring together a multidisciplinary team of international researchers, and will be led by Professor Sharon Peacock and Dr Soumya Swaminathan.  The team, including Professors Lalita Ramakrishnan, Ken Smith, Tom Blundell and Andres Floto, will focus on developing new diagnostic tools and treatments to address the sharp rise in cases of multidrug resistant tuberculosis (TB).

This will include research into:

  • the use of emerging sequence-based diagnostics to improve the accuracy of individual patient treatment for drug resistant TB
  • predicting the impact of genetic mutations on drug resistance based on modelling of bacterial genome data
  • the development of an in-depth understanding of bacterial genes associated with so-called ‘drug-tolerance’, where the drug’s ability to kill the bacteria gradually weakens
  • novel approaches to treatment of TB based on enhancing the body’s immune system to enable it to fight infection.

The partnership will generate a rich and lasting clinical and genomic dataset for studying TB, and the transfer of scientific training and technology will foster future international collaborative projects.

“I am delighted that Cambridge has been given the opportunity to work on a disease of global importance through the development of this partnership,” said Professor Sharon Peacock. “Chennai was the site for many of the early MRC-funded TB treatment trials, and the chance to explore new therapies and diagnostics to improve patient outcome through the use of state-of-the-art technologies represents an exciting opportunity.”

The funding is part of a landmark collaboration between the MRC and the Government of India DBT. Nearly £3.5million will be invested by the UK, through the MRC and the Newton Fund, a new initiative intended to strengthen research and innovation partnerships between the UK and emerging knowledge economies, with matched funding provided by DBT.

Prof K. VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology added: “The Department of Biotechnology, Government of India is delighted to partner with the MRC in creating research centres which will address vexing challenges in medicine through quality science and collaboration. India is committed to working with the best in the world, for India and for the world. 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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