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20 Dec 2022

NHMRC Development Grant to help fight antimicrobial resistance in the treatment against pneumonia

University of Melbourne Professor Christopher McDevitt, a Laboratory Head at the Doherty Institute, is one of only 14 Australian researchers to receive a prestigious NHMRC Development Grant this year. 

The $1.1M funding will support Professor McDevitt’s project of breaking antibiotic resistance in the pathogens that cause community-acquired bacterial pneumonia (CABP). 

“There is an urgent and critical need to develop new ways to treat infections caused by drug-resistant bacterial pathogens, also known as superbugs,” Professor McDevitt says. 

Pneumonia is one of the most common infections globally and a leading cause of death in children under five years of age in developing countries. In adults, CABP infections have a substantial economic and healthcare cost, more than $150 million annually in Australia, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at much greater risk of hospitalisation and mortality.  

Emerging antibiotic resistance and the limitations of current treatments have led to an urgent need for new therapies that are effective against pathogens that cause CABP, including drug-resistant strains. 

Professor McDevitt’s team, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Queensland and Alterity Therapeutics Ltd, pioneered the use of PBT2, a molecule originally developed to treat neurological diseases, as way to break antibiotic resistance in disease causing bacteria.  

“This grant will support our development of PBT2 as a therapeutic to rescue critically important frontline antibiotics and restore their ability to effectively treat CABP,” Professor McDevitt says. 

The NHMRC Development Grant scheme provides financial support to individual researchers and/or research teams to undertake health and medical research within Australia at the proof-of-concept stage that specifically drives towards a commercial outcome within a foreseeable timeframe. The intended outcomes of the scheme are increased rates of translation of health and medical research into commercial outcomes, resulting in improved health and medical knowledge.