Cambridge to set up TB partnership in Chennai

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Feb 14, 2015 16:17 IST

The University of Cambridge has been awarded 2 million pounds by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Government of India’s Department for Biotechnology to develop a partnership with the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis in Chennai.

Called the Cambridge-Chennai Centre Partnership on Antimicrobial Resistant Tuberculosis, it will bring together a multidisciplinary team of international researchers led by Sharon Peacock and Soumya Swaminathan.

The team, including Lalita Ramakrishnan, Ken Smith, Tom Blundell and Andres Floto, will focus on developing new diagnostic tools and treatments to address the sharp rise in cases of multidrug resistant tuberculosis, a university release said.

The partnership will research the use of emerging sequence-based diagnostics to improve the accuracy of individual patient treatment for drug resistant TB. It will also predict the impact of genetic mutations on drug resistance based on modelling of bacterial genome data.

The release added that the partnership will also focus on the development of an in-depth understanding of bacterial genes associated with so-called ‘drug-tolerance’, where the drug’s ability to kill the bacteria gradually weakens.

Developing novel approaches to treatment of TB based on enhancing the body’s immune system to enable it to fight infection is also one of its remits.

Peacock said: “I am delighted that Cambridge has been given the opportunity to work on a disease of global importance through the development of this partnership. Chennai was the site for many of the early MRC-funded TB treatment trials, and the chance to explore new therapies and diagnostics to improve patient outcome through the use of state-of-the-art technologies represents an exciting opportunity.”

The funding is part of a collaboration between the MRC and the Department of Biotechnology. Nearly 3.5million pounds are to be invested by through the MRC and the Newton Fund to strengthen research and innovation partnerships between the UK and emerging knowledge economies, with matched funding provided by department.

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