National PhD programme to tackle drug resistant infections

Leeds’ ongoing research into new ways to tackle drug-resistant infections is to be bolstered by a pioneering programme to develop the next generation of scientists specialising in this area.

The Medical Research Foundation, the charitable arm of the Medical Research Council, has launched its first ever national antimicrobial resistance doctoral training programme.

We are among the participating universities and will recruit fully-funded PhD students to specialise in research in the field. They will contribute to the drive to find new antibiotics or ways to improve diagnoses of infections.

Among the other partners in the £2.85million programme are the University of Bristol, Imperial College London, the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford.

Professor Christoph Wälti from the Faculty of Engineering, a member of the programme’s leadership team, said: “Launching a UK-wide training programme is an important step in the urgent campaign to tackle drug resistant infections around the world.

“Developing the next generation of researchers in a number of fields who can bring new ideas and approaches to address one of the biggest threats modern society faces is an important contribution towards a solution of this global challenge.”

Rapid diagnostics

Professor Wälti is leading a five-year £3.9m interdisciplinary research programme to design, test and build a new point-of-care device for hospital doctors and GPs which can rapidly diagnose a patient’s infection.

Doing so would help reduce the number of antibiotics unnecessarily prescribed, which do not help patients. This has been a key contributor to the rise in drug-resistant infections, so the device is seen as a crucial way to reduce this.

It is able to show within minutes whether someone is suffering from a viral or bacterial infection, giving clinicians additional better evidence to decide how to treat patients.

PhD training

The national training programme will initially support multidisciplinary PhD studentships over four years. In addition to the PhD students directly involved, networking activities and conferences are expected to reach a further 150 UK PhD students training in AMR-related research.

Professor Nicholas Lemoine, chairman of the Medical Research Foundation, said: “We believe this will help to strengthen the UK’s research capacity to respond to the global health challenge of antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance and drug-resistant infections.”

The foundation is continuing to seek funds from its supporters and other sources to fund two further cohorts of PhD students in antimicrobial resistance in the future.

The dedicated PhD positions to be based at Leeds will be advertised shortly. Read about doctoral study at the University, including our new Leeds Doctoral College here.

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