Understanding lung infection – Venture and Innovation Awards

We’re funding a range of Venture and Innovation Awards (VIAs) researching lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF). For those with the condition, infections can be difficult to treat, increase the burden of care and lead to long hospital stays, and can cause permanent lung damage.

The research we’re funding through the lung infection VIAs has the following areas of focus:

Earlier diagnosis

Developing a point-of-care test for the diagnosis and treatment of Aspergillus fumigatus

Dr Anand Shah, Royal Brompton Hospital and Imperial College London

Our contribution: £38,000
Partner contribution: Medical Research Council, £247,350

The fungal infection Aspergillus fumigatus is becoming difficult and expensive to diagnose and more resistant to existing treatments. The aim of this research project is to improve the accuracy of diagnosing Aspergillus and to identify whether the infecting strain will be resistant to current drugs by developing a low-cost device that may be able to be used in hospitals in the future.

RAPID-test – developing a home-monitoring test

Professor Jane Davies, Imperial College London and Dr Collin Sones, University of Southampton

Our contribution: £90,000
Partner contribution: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), £786,000

Detecting what bugs people with CF are growing requires hospital tests and a few days before treatment can begin. Developing a dipstick-like test for to use at home would allow treatments to begin sooner. Currently the researchers are developing the test to detect infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Burkholderia cepacia. They also aim to be able to identify which antibiotics the bugs are resistant to at the same time.

Find out more

Using bacteriophages to develop quicker tests in the clinic

Professor Chris van der Gast, Manchester Metropolitan University

Our contribution: £45,950
Partner contribution: Manchester Metropolitan University, £45,950  

Detecting what bugs people with CF are growing requires hospital tests and a few days before treatment can begin. Researchers in Manchester are aiming to develop a test that will identify which infections someone has within a few hours. They hope that if a sample is taken at the start of a clinic appointment, the results will be back by the end of the appointment.

Find out more

Development of a rapid diagnosis of infection with Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM)

Diagnostig Ltd, Bangor

Our contribution: £20,000
Partner contributions: Diagnostig Ltd £15,000; Innovate UK £86,000 (joint funding with Professor Andres Floto, Cambridge University)

Diagnosing NTM is extremely time consuming and expensive. Diagnostig Ltd have developed a more rapid method for detecting infection of a bacteria related to NTM. It works by detecting the antibodies to fragments of specific bacteria in a blood sample. The researchers will test the possibility thatthis approach might be successful for NTM. If successful it would be a much quicker method for detecting the presence of infection and treatment will be able to begin sooner.

Can chemicals in exhaled air predict lung flare-ups?

Dr Mike Murphy, Owlstone Medical Limited, UK

Our funding: £36,000
Partners: Owlstone Medical and Royal Papworth Hospital, £108,000

Flare-ups of poor lung health (also known as exacerbations) can require weeks of in-patient hospital treatment and cause permanent lung damage. If they can be detected earlier, their impact can be reduced. Researchers will investigate whether changes in chemicals in the air that people with CF breathe out can be used as a way of detecting the start of an exacerbation. This is a proof of principle study.

Understanding how lung infections work

Learning more about how Pseudomonas biofilms form, and how to disrupt them

Dr Tanmay Bharat, University of Oxford

Our contribution: £89,917
Partner contribution: Action Medical Research, £89,917 

Pseudomonas becomes resistant to antibiotics by forming protective ‘biofilms’. How biofilms work to protect the bacteria from antibiotics is not understood. It has recently been shown that the formation of biofilms is helped by chemicals that are produced and secreted by Pseudomonas. In this research project, Dr Bharat at the University of Oxford will focus on learning more about these chemicals and their role in biofilm formation. Reducing the level of these chemicals could make antibiotics more effective against Pseudomonas.

Read more on the Action Medical Research website

Investigating new ways to detect and treat antibiotic resistant Pseudomonas infection

Professor Miguel Camara, University of Nottingham, Co-director of National Biofilm Innovation Centre

Our contribution: £50,000
Partner contribution: University of Nottingham, £50,000

As the numbers of bacteria grow during Pseudomonas infection, the levels of chemicals it releases reach a tipping point. Once the tipping point is reached these chemicals, known as ‘quorum sensing molecules’, make Pseudomonas less easy to treat with antibiotics.

In this PhD research project, the student will develop tests for detecting quorum sensing molecules clinically and test if blocking their activity improves the effectiveness of existing antibiotics.

What do antibiotics do to the ‘good’ bacteria in the lungs?

Dr Martin Welch, University of Cambridge

Our contribution: £33,000
Partner contribution: National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, £210,000 

The lungs of people with CF contain a wide range of ‘good’ bacteria and infection-causing bacteria. In order to treat CF lung infections more effectively, it is important to understand how these bugs interact with each other.

A mix of all the different bugs found in the lungs will be modelled in the lab by a PhD student in Cambridge. The lab model will be used to study the effect of antibiotics on how these bugs interact. This will inform the best way to prescribe antibiotics, in order to maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria while treating the infection.

What makes a lung infection become dominant in the CF lung?

Dr Laura Nolan, Imperial College London

Our contribution: £30,000
Partner contribution: Imperial College London, £206,000

There may be a number of different infection-causing bacteria growing in the lungs of people with CF, but at different times of life, different bacteria become dominant. It isn’t understood what causes one bacteria to dominate others. Dr Laura Nolan has been awarded a fellowship to set up her own lab at Imperial College, and the Trust has awarded her some extra budget for consumables to allow her to progress this exciting area of research. Understanding more about how different infection-causing bacteria interact could lead to more effective treatments for these infections in the future.

Better ways to treat infection

Can a multiple sclerosis drug be used to increase effectiveness of antibiotics?

Professor Jane Davies, Imperial College London

Our contribution: £30,000
Partner contribution: Cycle Pharmaceuticals, £30,000

When the multiple sclerosis (MS) drug glatiramer acetate (GA) was shown to have antibacterial effects against Pseudomonas, the Trust agreed to support Professor Davies and her biotech partner in exploring its potential further. This research funding is being used to investigate the Pseudomonas-strain-specific effects of GA in enhancing the effectiveness of existing, currently-used antibiotics.

Do drugs designed to improve the effectiveness of antibiotics work on Pseudomonas?

Professor Jane Davies, Imperial College London

Our contribution: £50,000
Partner contribution: Helperby Therapeutics, £50,000 

One way to tackle antibiotic resistance is to develop drugs to make bacteria more susceptible to current antibiotics. Biotech company Helperby are working with researchers within one of our Pseudomonas Strategic Research Centres to test the drugs in their development pipeline against specific strains of Pseudomonas. If their research is successful these drugs could reduce the burden of care during infections and reduce long-term lung damage by clearing infections faster.

Developing drugs to increase the effectiveness of NTM antibiotics

Neem Biotech, UK

Our contribution: £30,000
Partner contribution: Neem Biotech, £30,000 

We are providing support to researchers at the biotech company Neem to continue lab test on promising lead ‘would-be-drugs’ that work by increasing the effectiveness of current antibiotics against NTM bacteria.

How do NTM infections live alongside other bugs in the CF lung

Professor Chris van der Gast, Manchester Metropolitan University

Our contribution: £48,000
Partner contribution: Manchester Metropolitan University, £48,000 

Developing NTM infection can have devastating consequences for people with CF, leading to increased lung damage and a year-long course of antibiotics that may not work, and may reduce their chances of a successful lung transplant. More research is needed to rethink how NTM is treated. This research study will investigate how NTM infections develop alongside other bugs within the lung. The results will provide important new information to apply in the development of more effective treatments.

Research we fund

We fund research to tackle some of the most pressing issues in CF today. Find out how your donations are making a difference.

What is CF?

Cystic fibrosis, or CF, affects the lungs, digestive system and other organs, and there are over 10,600 people living with it in the UK.

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