Persistence against antimicrobial resistance: NRC tackles global health threat

- Ottawa, Ontario

According to the World Health Organization, drug resistance is one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity today.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when germs like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and stop responding to current drug treatments. As medicines become ineffective, infections persist, the risk of severe illness or death increases, and there is a greater chance of spreading illness to other people.

With extensive foundational expertise and a strong track record in research of infectious diseases, researchers at the NRC's Human Health Therapeutics (HHT) Research Centre are fostering innovation in 4 key research areas targeting AMR:

  • Bacteriophages – natural and engineered bacterial predators to tackle priority pathogens
  • Nanoantibiotics – targeting harmful bacteria to curb the surge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • Combining antibodies with antimicrobials – to repurpose old and ineffective antibiotics
  • Genetics – to understand how microbes cause infections and diseases, and develop strategies against multi-drug resistant infections

"These challenges are so large that we need diversity of ideas domestically and internationally to make impactful progress," says Dr. Sue Twine, Director General of the Human Health Therapeutics (HHT) Research Centre. "The NRC is part of essential collaborations with Canadian companies, other government departments and other partners as we explore options for working scientifically and enabling research in different ways."

The NRC brings a unique value to the AMR research and innovation partnerships as its research spans from early stage research and development, through to translating the science into something that can be used with actual patients.

NRC research programs also allow universities to support their researchers, which is fundamental to tackling challenges like AMR. "Our programs are structured to support partners, students, post-docs and research associates, so we have the best and the brightest minds coming to work with us," says Dr. Twine.

Working on solutions for the silent pandemic

The NRC is playing a leading role in collaborative AMR research, and tackling the AMR crisis, sometimes called the "silent pandemic", from a variety of angles.

The NRC has assembled an experienced, multi-disciplinary research team with access to advanced instrumentation in mass spectrometry-based protein and proteomic analyses. They are looking to identify new targets and biomarkers that could help develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics against AMR pathogens.

Using advanced genetic and molecular biology tools to dissect the mechanisms of infection and drug resistance, HHT researchers are also using advanced genetic and molecular biology tools to identify how AMR pathogens are able to resist existing medications, with a goal of developing more targeted treatments and minimizing future drug resistance.

In addition, HHT's expertise and R&D capacity in infectious diseases helps de-risk critical steps in the development of AMR therapeutic products, which assists to get products to market quicker for a variety of partners. In particular, HHT's expertise and capabilities with animal models of infections, immunology and microbiology provide critical support to Canadian SMEs in the pre-clinical evaluation of vaccine and therapeutic candidates against AMR pathogens. This is an essential step in the path to regulatory approval.

Ready for the challenge

With widespread interest in finding innovative solutions for global health issues, the NRC's HHT Research Centre is up for the challenge.

"Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect to see a strong international focus on advancing technologies in healthcare to ensure we are prepared domestically for health emergencies," says Dr. Twine. "The NRC is well positioned to act as a hub for bringing AMR research together in Canada, both now and for the future."

AMR Action Podcast

In this ninth episode of the AMR Action Podcast, Dani Peters, CAIC Senior Advisor, speaks with Dr. Sue Twine, the NRC's Director General of the Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre, and researchers Dr. Danielle Peters and Alyssa McAdorey, about their work to address the growing public health threat of antimicrobial resistance and the importance of collaborating across institutions and industry in order to tackle the "next big silent pandemic."

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