The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


05 Sep 2022

Generous donation leads to funding of critical research into sepsis

University of Melbourne Professor Christopher McDevitt, a Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute, has been awarded a competitive Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund (VMRAF) grant to further his research into breaking bacterial resistance to antibiotics in the treatment of sepsis.

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming inflammatory response to infection that, if not treated properly, can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.  In Australia, there are about 55,000 sepsis cases every year resulting in more than 8,000 deaths. Sepsis remains the leading cause of deaths in hospital.

The rise of drug-resistant bacteria is complicating traditional treatment approaches for sepsis. Use of ineffective antimicrobials complicates treatment by missing or delaying the delivery of effective therapeutics. 

Professor McDevitt’s project through the VMRAF hopes to address this problem by identifying ways we can effectively treat sepsis again using frontline antibiotics. 

The VMRAF grant program was created to support and accelerate health and medical research through the provision of one-off grants to successful applicants

Professor McDevitt was awarded $100,000 through the scheme.

The team leveraged a generous donation from the Prior Family Foundation to apply for the grant, effectively doubling their funding.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Foundation’s support as it has given us the momentum to continue this essential research,” Professor McDevitt said.

“It has always been difficult to have fundamental science supported and now, as we emerge from COVID, the landscape is even more competitive.”

“Without the Prior Family Foundation’s contribution, we would not have been able to pursue this opportunity and seek further support for our research through the Victorian Government.”,

Over the past four years, the team have been successful in showing that a molecule called PBT2 – originally developed as a treatment for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases – could be combined with certain types of antibiotics to restore their potency against the drug-resistant bacteria that causes sepsis and pneumonia.

With the support of the Prior Family Foundation, they have been building on these findings to restore the use of frontline antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis.

“Antibiotic resistance is the next pandemic. Our work is focused on finding the frontline antibiotics that our molecule, PBT2, can synergise with and restore treatment efficacy. This approach provides a unique way to rescue the effectiveness of commonly used antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis,” Professor McDevitt said.

David Prior, Founder of the Prior Family Foundation said they were committed to supporting research into this deadly disease.

“World-leading medical research takes time and requires significant resources, skills and knowledge to produce an outcome,” Mr Prior said.

“We want to be able to provide support to researchers like Professor McDevitt and help raise awareness of sepsis, in the hope of informing public health policy.”

“We can’t do it alone though, and we encourage other philanthropists to join us in supporting the search for solutions to treating sepsis.”