56,8 million SEK funding from Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation for infection research in Umeå

Important funding for MIMS and UCMR.

Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundations considers two projects lead by MIMS scientists that they will lead to scientific breakthrough and assigned them with extraordinary funding.

The project "New drugs against viral infections of the respiratory tract and eyes" will receive 23,8 million SEK and has the long-term goal to identify the detailed mechanisms that viruses use to get into a cell. The main applicant is Niklas Arnberg, professor and group leader at MIMS.

The second project will mainly study "New strategies to disarm bacteria" and receives 33 million SEK . Main applicant of this project is MIMS/UCMR group leader professor Sven Bergström, also head of the department of Molecular Biology.

Niklas Arnberg and his colleagues study virus that cause infections in the respiratory tract and eyes, influenza virus, adenovirus and picornavirus. This knowledge can then be used to develop new drugs for the treatment of the virus infections.

- At present there are no drugs available to treat infections caused by adenovirus and picornavirus and there are only a few drugs on the market to treat influenza, says Niklas Arnberg.

The three virus groups use similar strategies to infect the cells in the respiratory tract and eyes. Researchers will now go to the bottom and start to identify the structures of the molecules which give viruses the possibility to attach at the outer cellular membrane during infection. The scientists will also study the structures of the molecules which are found in mucous membrane. These molecules inhibit the viruses from attaching to cells.

- The knowledge we will generate in this project opens for new design of molecules that can bind to viruses and prevent them from attaching to cells. We have a good reasons to hope that these drugs will have the ability to shorten the time of sickness, reduce the symptoms and the spread of infection. A consequence will be a cut down of significant health care costs which are associated with the infections of these viruses - particularly influenza virus, says Niklas Arnberg. He is professor at the department of clinical microbiology and group leader at MIMS, and the main applicant. The co-applicant Mikael Elofsson, professor at the Umeå university's department of chemistry is a principal investigator at the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research, UCMR, founded with support of the Swedish Research Council.

Also the second project "new strategies to disarm bacteria" is a UCMR project and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundations granted a 33 million SEK support. Sven Bergström's collaborators are Elisabeth Sauer-Eriksson and Fredrik Almqvist, both members of the department of chemistry, and Jörgen Johansson, a MIMS group leader.

A fundamental problem with the common antibiotics is that they are based on killing the bacteria. Sven Bergström and his colleagues will instead focus on disarming bacteria and prevent them from causing an infection.

- The goal is to develop a completely new type of antimicrobial substances, which block the development of resistance, says Sven Bergström.

The researchers will use a specific class of chemical molecules called 2- pyridones. In earlier studies the scientists showed that these substances prevented the bacteria to cause urinary tract infections. The scientists will also try to enhance the effect of antibiotics which are already on the market.
- With the generous funding from Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundations we will now be able to investigate the molecular mechanisms behind the ability of the 2- pyridones to block the pathogeny of the bacteria. In addition, we want to find out if it is possible to enhance the effect of antibiotics on the market with the help of 2- pyridones, Sven Bergström says.
Earlier results show that 2- pyridones are able to enhance the effects of Isoniazid, the antibiotic which is primarily used to fight tuberculosis.
- These results are very interesting, especially if we consider that recently new strains of the tuberculosis bacterium have been discovered that are totally resistant against all antibiotics, says Sven Bergström.

The new funding to the UCMR and MIMS researchers is another proof of the excellent quality of the infection research at Umeå University.

Eva-Maria Diehl
(Translation of the press release from Umeå University with smaller changes)

play1 Press release from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundations
play1 Swedish press release by Karin Wikman, Umeå University