Van Leeuwenhoek Lecture on BioScience.
Gerry Wright is Director of the Michael G, DeGroote Institute of Infectious Diseases at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.
The Wright Lab is trying to understand fundamental aspects of how antibiotics work, their sources and the reasons why bacteria become resistant to them. Ultimate goal is the development (chemically synthesizing) of new antibiotics.
The collaborators are particularly interested in the enzymes that alter or destroy antibiotics. By identifying resistance genes, expressing and purifying enzymes, and understanding their role in the process of antibiotic resistance, they hope to gather data to help reverse this resistance and develop new drugs.
They are also working on the use of amino acids as an antidote to fungal pathogens - another living micro-organism that causes both diseases in people, and major crop losses from infection.
Antibiotic resistance is emerging as one of the most pressing challenges to modern medicine of our times. The inexorable evolution of resistance elements by natural selection and the ability to disseminate these vertically and horizontally through bacterial populations is the primary cause of the antibiotic crisis; but it is exacerbated by our inability in the 21st century to match this phenomenon with new antibiotic discovery.
Targeting resistance itself is a strategy to rescue the activity of our existing "legacy" drugs. Examples of this approach will be provided along with the description of a cell based platform for the identification of inhibitors of resistance via high throughput screening.