Combating superbugs

Thursday 17 June 2004

The Universities of St Andrews and Dundee have received almost £5 million this week for critical research that could lead to more effective medicines for many diseases.

Researchers at the Scottish Structural Proteomics Facility (SSPF). – the most modern basic research facility in Britain for combating ‘superbugs’ – will use the money to help them understand infectious disease . The £4.8m BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) funding will further enable the scientists to discover more about proteins and enzymes which will allow them to design more effective medicines.

The facility, which has individual research teams led by scientists in St Andrews and Dundee, is designed to streamline the process of drug design, from the identification of novel therapeutic targets from drug resistant bacteria to producing candidate drug leads. Their work is relevant to the treatment of cancer, parasitic, bacterial and viral diseases.

The group at the two universities will collect new findings on a database of enzymes to share with colleagues around the UK. In addition, proteomics studies of MSRA will identify new targets for antibiotic development. Viral entry into cells, and subsequent immune evasion is the first stage in viral infection and the SSPF will focus on how this process works for a variety of dangerous human viruses.

In total there are 14 research groups contributing to the SSPF including scientists from Glasgow and Warwick Universities. The project will be overseen by Professors Jim Naismith, Malcolm White (both St Andrews) and Bill Hunter (Dundee).

Director of the SSPF Professor Jim Naismith said: “This is a great opportunity for us and a great responsibility. Every University has made a substantial commitment to this project and the support of SHEFC was essential. The project is a manifestation of the strong links made between St Andrews and Dundee in this scientific area that have created this world class research grouping. It is very much a team effort and every member is exceptional”

Professor Bill Hunter added: “This award is hugely important to us. It provides a key opportunity to integrate structural and computational studies with biology and enhance understanding of life processes. We are all looking forward to working together to directly impact on many varied human health and agricultural issues.”

Proteomics is the study and analysis of protein structure and function, which is becoming an important science with the mapping of several genomes, including the human one, and the discovery of new proteins.

The consortia aim to determine 50 protein structures in five years, a significant increase on what can presently be achieved. This will require investment in and development of new technologies that will benefit all UK structural biology groups.

World-class research at St Andrews and Dundee has played a major role in studying these processes. In Dundee there is an emphasis on microbial pathogens in particular those that cause the parasitic diseases malaria and African sleeping sickness. Many people in the world are afflicted by these diseases and there is a pressing need to study the biological chemistry of these organisms and develop new drugs against them. In St Andrews, Professor Malcolm White is an expert on archaea – microorganisms found in extreme environments such as volcanic pools, which share many traits with man. The organisms have proven an immensely valuable model for the study of how DNA is repaired in humans, as archaeal proteins are ideally suited for structural studies. The SSPF also works closely with Centre for High Throughput and Interdisciplinary Research based in St Andrews and led by Dr Nick Westwood.

The SSPF is a partnership between Biomolecular Sciences at St Andrews and the Faculty of Life Sciences at Dundee, and was originally funded by the Universities and a development grant of £1.3M from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC).


For further information, contact:

Professor James Naismith, University of St Andrews, Tel: 01334 463792, E-mail: [email protected]

Professor Malcolm White, University of St Andrews Tel:, 01334 463432 E-mail: mfw2@st-

Professor Bill Hunter, University of Dundee Tel:01382 345745 E-mail: [email protected]


University of St Andrews Press Office – Gayle Cook – 01334 4627227 / 07900 050103 / gec3@st-

University of Dundee Press Office – Jenny Marra – 01382 344910 / 07968 298585 / [email protected]

Notes to Editors

The full list of applicants are St Andrews: Peter Coote, Jim Naismith, Garry Taylor, Malcolm White Dundee: Geoff Barton, Mike Ferguson, Charlie Bond, Bill Hunter Glasgow: David Blackbourn, Richard Elliot, David Evans Warwick: Greg Challis, Peter Derrick

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected] Ref: Proteomics pr 180604.doc View the latest University news at

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