University of Oklahoma faculty Helen I. Zgurskaya and Valentin V. Rybenkov are contributing to a $104 million federal initiative to study antibiotic resistance. Harvard Medical School professor Johan Paulsson leads the multi-institutional research team.
The initiative, “DARTS: Defeating Antibiotic Resistance through Transformative Solutions,” is funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The project aims to address the critical healthcare challenge of increasingly resilient bacteria by “advancing an ultra-high throughput imaging and culturing platform that can continuously track and test billions of bacteria one by one.”
As one of twenty-five collaborating groups from industry, academy and clinics working on the project, the OU team will contribute their expertise in drug efflux and permeation mechanisms.
“The project is focused on how antibiotic resistance arises and on the characterization of rare cells that survive during antibiotic treatments in clinics,” Zgurskaya said. “These survivors are in a different state than rapidly growing cells. We will characterize how drugs get inside these cells, how drug efflux works in these survivors and what kind of antibiotics are more likely to trigger the appearance of survivors.”
“What makes this novel is not that 25 research groups are funded to study antibiotic resistance, but that 25 groups with expertise in optics, mathematics, microbiology, and medicine can come together and do that as one coordinated team,” said Paulsson in a press release.
This project will also enable valuable opportunities for students working in Rybenkov and Zgurskaya’s labs. Students will gain experience using a technology that isolates and analyzes single bacterial cells developed at Harvard, as well as drug efflux and permeation quantification technology developed at OU and machine learning applications in drug efflux and permeation also developed by Rybenkov and Zgurskaya’s labs.