Novel approach capitalises on commonality across pathogens

London and Porton Down, UK and Vancouver, Canada, 27 June 2017: LifeArc, the UK medical research charity previously known as MRC Technology, The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), today announced a collaboration to identify antibacterial drug targets.

Antibiotic resistance is a major world-wide health problem that is threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, sepsis and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective. In a report published in Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK Chief Medical Officer is quoted as saying “We have reached a critical point and must act now on a global scale to slow down antimicrobial resistance”. In this same report it is predicted that by 2050 resistance to currently available antibiotics will prevent common medical procedures and operations from taking place, due to risk of bacterial infection. There is, therefore, a huge need to identify new targets and develop novel antibacterial agents to combat the rising problem of resistance.

To date, the majority of antibacterial drug discovery programs have focused on very specific aspects of resistance, or single pathogen species. This new collaborative project will take a more holistic approach, looking at commonality across pathogens to identify which genes or “targets” express proteins that lead to the production of multi-drug resistant bacteria, and are therefore the most promising from a biophysical and drug discovery based perspective. Once targets have been selected and scientifically validated, results will be openly published and the most promising targets will enter into drug discovery programs.

Justin Bryans, Executive Director, Drug Discovery at LifeArc, said: “LifeArc’s strategy is to create Communities for Impact (CfI) where we work in collaboration with cutting edge organisations such as Dstl and the CDRD, bringing together our diverse expertise and knowledge to tackle key issues in human health. The discovery of new antibacterial drugs is becoming increasingly urgent and we are excited by the potential for this collaboration, as each party brings a piece of the jigsaw to enable the CfI as a whole to make a real impact in this field.”

Professor Timothy Atkins, Senior Fellow at Dstl, commented: “To protect the armed forces and the civilian population against the threat of infectious disease we need to develop novel antimicrobials that are active against a broad spectrum of pathogens. To achieve this challenging goal we need to be working with scientists at the forefront of their respective disciplines, which is why we’re extremely enthusiastic about the prospect of working alongside LifeArc and CDRD to bring our individual expertise to bear on this globally important issue.”

 Dr Edie Dullaghan, Head of Target Validation, CDRD, said: “As Canada’s national drug development and commercialization centre, our goal is to enable the development of game-changing therapeutics to address some of the most pressing health issues of our time. To help mitigate this challenge of antibiotic resistance, we have assembled a multi-disciplinary team of microbiologists, medicinal chemists and bioinformatitions, and will be combining their expertise with that of our partners LifeArc and Dstl. By bringing our distinct perspectives and collective resources to bear, we are uniquely positioned to create an effective path forward for the discovery and development of novel antibacterial

Notes to editors

Media enquiries

For LifeArc

Katie Odgaard, Zyme Communications


Tel: +44(0) 7787 502 947

Liezel Tipper, PR and Communications Manager, LifeArc


Tel: +44(0) 20 7391 2772

 For Dstl


Tel: +44(0) 1980 952361, +44(0) 7884 732999

 For the CDRD

Julia White, Manager, Communications


Tel: +1 (604) 827 1226

Further information

About LifeArc:

LifeArc is the new name for MRC Technology, a medical research charity with a 25 year legacy of helping scientists and organisations turn their research into treatments and diagnostics for patients.

The new name reflects the charity’s purpose: to be the arc or bridge between research and improving patients’ lives.

LifeArc is pioneering new ways to turn great science into greater patient impact. It brings together a network of partners to tackle specific diseases and directly funds academic and early stage research. The current five-year focus is on antimicrobials, neuroscience, personalised oncology and respiratory projects. Work with other medical research charities and foundations outside of these therapy areas will continue, as these partners play a crucial role in helping LifeArc understand potential new areas to research in the future.

The charity has dedicated laboratories in Stevenage where around 80 scientists work on antibody and small molecule projects, while the Edinburgh lab progresses diagnostics development.

So far, LifeArc’s work has helped to develop four drugs (Keytruda®, Actemra®, Tysabri® and Entyvio®) and a test for antimicrobial resistance.   Twitter @lifearc1.

About The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD)

CDRD is Canada’s national drug development and commercialization centre working in partnership with academia, industry, government and foundations. CDRD provides the specialized expertise and infrastructure to identify, validate and advance promising discoveries, and transform them into commercially viable investment opportunities for the private sector — and ultimately into new therapies for patients. Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence Program has recognized CDRD as a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR).

For more information, visit and Twitter: @C_D_R_D

About Dstl

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory maximises the impact of science and technology (S&T) for the defence and security of the UK, supplying sensitive and specialist S&T services for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government.

Dstl is an Executive Agency of the MOD, run along commercial lines. It is one of the principal government organisations dedicated to S&T in the defence and security field, with three main sites at Porton Down, near Salisbury, Portsdown West, near Portsmouth, and Fort Halstead, near Sevenoaks.

Dstl works with a wide range of partners and suppliers in industry, in academia and overseas to deliver MOD’s Science and Technology Programme.

For more information, visit and Twitter: @DefenceHQ and @dstlmod