Uni­ver­sity Research Team is One of 11 Grantees Sharing the $280 Mil­lion Fund

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity announced today that Dr. Kim Lewis, Pro­fessor of Biology and Director of the Antimi­cro­bial Center, is among the recip­i­ents of $280 mil­lion in grants the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion has ded­i­cated to help sup­port the research and speed the devel­op­ment of TB vac­cines, diag­nostic tests, and treat­ments. Northeastern’s $750,000 grant will help Dr. Lewis and his team to develop an approach to anti-​​tuberculosis therapy by studying the latency of tuberculosis.

The Gates Foun­da­tion is leading the charge against tuber­cu­losis by pro­viding sub­stan­tial sup­port for new ideas that are likely to rev­o­lu­tionize the treat­ment of the dis­ease” said Lewis. “We are proud to be part of this effort and work together with out­standing sci­en­tists around the world to do research that serves global, soci­etal needs.”

Dr. Lewis is a leading expert on dor­mancy in bac­teria, and his lab dis­cov­ered that many pathogens form “per­sister” cells which nei­ther grow nor die and are unre­spon­sive to antibi­otics. Working with a model organism, E. coli, Dr. Lewis and his group were able to iso­late these per­sister cells for the first time, and study the genes respon­sible for dormancy.

The knowl­edge gained from his research will now be used, with sup­port from the Gates award, to learn whether a sim­ilar dor­mancy pro­gram is respon­sible for latency of tuber­cu­losis. These find­ings will lay the ground for a devel­op­ment of anti-​​TB drugs capable of erad­i­cating dor­mant cells, and dras­ti­cally cut the time of treatment.

Tuber­cu­losis claims the lives of nearly 2 mil­lion people every year and has been qual­i­fied by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) as a global health emer­gency since 1993. The infec­tion is easy to transmit and dif­fi­cult to treat with con­ven­tional antibi­otics, because the dis­ease can take on a “latent” form in which the pathogen seems to be inac­tive and does not respond to treat­ment, resulting in the need for pro­tracted, poten­tially year-​​long treat­ment regiment.

The cur­rent TB ther­a­peu­tics are decades old and fairly inef­fec­tive” said Dr. Lewis. “Com­bined with the rising drug resis­tance, there is an extreme urgency for sci­ence to get ahead of this epidemic.”

Stop­ping this con­ta­gious lung dis­ease has been a pri­ority for the Gates Foun­da­tion and to date, they have ful­filled half of their $900 mil­lion com­mit­ment to fund TB research through 2015. The newly awarded grants will focus on three key areas, including the clin­ical trials of sev­eral vac­cine can­di­dates; devel­op­ment of accu­rate and easy-​​to-​​use tests; and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of new treat­ments to combat drug resistance.

For more infor­ma­tion about Dr. Kim Lewis’ research, please con­tact Renata Nyul at 617–373-7424 or at r.​nyul@​neu.​edu.

About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.neu​.edu.