Tackling antimicrobial resistance – impressions from a LeSPAR networking workshop

university of dundee, antimicrobial resistance, socity of biology, biochemical society
Discovery Centre for Translational and Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Dundee served as a fantastic venue for the networking workshop. Photo: University of Dundee

By Gabriele Butkute, science policy assistant the Biochemical Society

The Biochemical Society is a part of the Learned Society Partnership on Antimicrobial Resistance (LeSPAR) – a group of learned societies that are focused on taking action, championing best practice and raising awareness of the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance.

To address this issue, LeSPAR organised three networking workshops for researchers entitled “Antimicrobial resistance: environments, evolution and transmission”. One of them took place at the University of Dundee, more about it from Dr Adam Ostrowski, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Dundee:

“The stories on ravaging infections by multidrug resistant bacteria became regular in reports from various news channels. We, as a civilisation, have a problem with an increasing number of infectious microorganisms that are resistant to known treatments. In fact, unless we do something about it, we will soon be unable to treat many common conditions. This very issue became the highlight of a series of workshops, that took place in London, Dundee and Nottingham, and I had the pleasure to attend one of them. On 3rd of July the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee became the host of the second LeSPAR workshop on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The local crowd of scientists were joined by representatives of the Life Sciences industry, policy makers and professional societies. It soon became apparent that nearly half of attendees were not directly involved in microbiology research but rather issues around it, and that some fruitful networking between various industries could begin.

Mike ferguson university of dundee
Prof Mike Ferguson, the chair of the workshop. Photo: University of Dundee.

Shortly after a networking lunch in the atrium of the new Discovery Centre for Translational and Interdisciplinary Research Centre, Prof. Mike Ferguson, the Chair of the workshop, opened the event. The three talks delivered by Dr Adam Staines from BBSRC, Dr Charis Marwick from University of Dundee and Prof. Julian Parkhill from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute focused on new ways to stimulate international and interdisciplinary collaboration to address the increasing problem of AMR. They covered many topics, among which, creating a new funding environment, a new AMR data gathering and storage platform, and discovery of new resistance markers linking the pathogen genotype to the phenotype on a population level, among other fascinating ideas.

The conclusion of that afternoon, and probably the most important and exciting part of it, was the networking workshop. It provided the ground for finding the key issues which were touched upon throughout the day:

  • how to manage the enormous amount of data required to accurately map the AMR;
  • how to persuade medical practitioners to reduce the use of antimicrobials and enhance surveillance over emerging resistant strains;
  • Last, but not least, how many new antibiotics do we actually need, and can we restore the potency of the current ones by redesigning drug administration.

These questions formed in an environment of a truly amazing consensus between all of the attendees.

Coffee break facilitated some great discussions on AMR! Photo: University of Dundee

To be engulfed by this spirit of mutual understanding and debate alone made the day well worth the efforts of everyone who made it happen. For myself, it was the first time I could witness one of the rare occasions when policymakers, scientists and industry representatives come together to debate one of the great problems of the today’s world.

The three excellent talks provided the merit for the discussion, and building on these it was the networking opportunity that made the workshop a great event. I had a chance to refresh some old acquaintances and make some new ones. I had a chance to witness a brainstorm of great minds, yet the views of the younger generation of researchers were not lost. It was a brilliant day in sunny Dundee, filled with solid discussion and a good scientific vibe.”

You can follow Adam on Twitter and check out the Storify of the event!

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