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UOW scientist awarded $1M for antimicrobial resistance research

Project will develop a new approach to understanding and tackling drug resistance.

University of Wollongong researcher Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen has been awarded $1,050,000 under the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant scheme for a five-year research project into antimicrobial resistance

The Minister for Health, The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, announced $365 million in funding to support 237 health and medical researchers under the scheme on Wednesday 20 May.

The objective of the NHMRC Investigator Grant Scheme is to support the research program of outstanding investigators at all career stages.

Professor van Oijen, Director of Molecular Horizons and affiliate of the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), was awarded the funding for a project that will explore roadblocks to DNA replication and implications for antimicrobial resistance.

The research will advance our understanding of how microbial organisms gain resistance against antimicrobials and how the usefulness of existing antimicrobials can be increased by identifying novel drug targets to slow down mutational resistance. The funding commences in 2021.

“Antimicrobials have transformed human health and saved millions of lives, however, their widespread use (and misuse) has led to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. This means life-saving antimicrobial drugs are losing their ability to save lives, posing a potentially catastrophic threat to public health,” Professor van Oijen said.

“Understanding the molecular relationship between DNA-damaging drug activity and the cellular response that speeds up evolution of drug resistance is critical to tackling the health challenge of antimicrobial resistance.

“My research group has pioneered the development of tools to visualise DNA replication at the molecular level. By integrating microscopy with biochemistry and microbiology we have established methods to monitor in real-time and at the level of individual molecules how the DNA-replication machinery copies DNA.

“We are the only lab in the world with access to these methods and are now provided with a truly unique opportunity to develop a completely new approach to understand and tackle drug resistance.”

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Jennifer L Martin AC welcomed the NHMRC funding announcement.

“I congratulate Antoine on his success. This is ground-breaking and critical research that he and his team are doing,” Professor Martin said.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge those applicants who were not funded in this round of NHMRC Investigator grants. I thank them for their research passion, and for the time and effort they put into their grant submission.”

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