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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I00503X/1
Title: Bacteriophage and Antibiotic Resistance: a Mathematical and Imaging Approach
Principal Investigator: Beardmore, Professor RE
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Colder Insights Corp. ETH Zurich University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Oxford
Department: Biosciences
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: Leadership Fellowships
Starts: 01 January 2011 Ends: 30 June 2016 Value (£): 1,261,442
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Continuum Mechanics Medical science & disease
Non-linear Systems Mathematics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Jun 2010 EPSRC Fellowships 2010 Interview Panel B Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
There is general agreement that medical science is facing a problem of grave importance with implications for the future of human health.Due to the evolution and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the increasing difficulty of synthesising new antibiotic products,we need to find new ways of treating bacterial infections. As we embark upon the design of synthetictherapies that exploit engineered bacteria and their viral bacteriophages, we need to better understand how to use the antimicrobial agents in our possession.Locating 'the optimal antibiotic treatment' may be a distant goal, but researchers have recently begun to consider new ways in whichantibiotics should be combined to minimise the evolution of resistance to antibiotics. This is the focus of the proposal: how do wego beyond pharmacokinetic measures of efficacy to find new rationales for the optimal treatment?An approach to this question must encompass different fields. We need tools from systems biology thattell us how to model the behaviour of the complex processes within a single cell, but we also need modelsdescribing how antibiotics inhibit those cellular processes and lead to death in bacteria: the systems biology of antibiotics. To test theory we need empirical work, for if we claim that a combination of different antibiotics makes a potent cocktail, we should then test the veracity of this claim in the lab.The experimental paradigm for the type of research questions tackled in the proposal are 'experimental microbial systems', evolving microcosms that can be created in vitro and their evolution observed and repeated. Indeed, the evolution of antibiotic resistance can be so rapid that it may be observed in experiments lasting a handful of days. The utility of this empirical device is the rapidity with which hypotheses can be tested, we will soon see whether ideas created in theory have any validity in practise.But how do we derive such theoretical predictions? By taking mathematical models of experimental systems and asking fora form of 'controllability'. That is, we first ask whether a particular outcome can be achieved within the mathematical model. This outcome might mean, for example, using antibiotics to removal a bacterium from its host by minimising its density while, at the same time, preventing that bacterium from evolving antibiotic resistance; we claim that this kind of problem fits nicely into a systems and control approach.Despite very rapid advances in genomic technologies, biological systems are notoriously hard to model and data can be sparse so we will need to work hard to control them. However, a fundemental feature of the work we propose is the principle of generality that may help see beyond data. The idea, a common mathematical technique, is to look for principles that identify different systems as having identical structures that can be dealt with abstractly using mathematical tools. For example, are there any principles common to the best antibiotic cocktails when treating both E.coli or Pseudomonas infections? Are treatments that cycle different antibiotics in time always better than ones that mix antibiotics into a single cocktail? Is the particular antibiotic protein target within the cell important? Mathematics can help elucidate general problems like these.As some of these problems are difficult and ambitious, more feasible goals are presented. For example, can we use imaging to watch bacterial colonies grow in different antibiotic media and predict and measure the potency of different cocktails? This kind of experiment is novel in itself and will provide a foundation for more theoretical parts of the work.In short, with a combination of tools from mathematics, biology and physics our aim is to understand what the optimalantibiotic treatments are in simple systems and to understand whether those treatments remain optimal for more complex biological systems.
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