BOSTON – April 10, 2008 – Dr. Kim Lewis, Pro­fessor of Biology and Director of the Antimi­cro­bial Center at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, has been awarded a $1.4 mil­lion grant from the National Insti­tutes of Health (NIH) to examine the genetics of mul­tidrug tol­er­ance in bac­teria. This four-​​year grant will allow Lewis, who recently received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion to study the latency of tuber­cu­losis, to con­tinue his research on the for­ma­tion of dor­mant per­sister bac­te­rial cells, which are tol­erant to all known antibi­otics and make many infec­tions incur­able. By using a genomics approach, the team hopes to iden­tify the genes respon­sible for the for­ma­tion and main­te­nance of these per­sister cells and to develop a therapy to destroy them.

The first com­po­nent of this research project is to pro­duce mutants with the capacity to pro­duce a large number of dor­mant per­sister cells. To do this, the researchers will work with two bac­teria, E. coli and Y. pestis, to pro­duce high per­sis­tence (hip) mutants with the ability to pro­duce large amounts of per­sister cells. The next phase will be done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with James Galagan, Ph.D., an Asso­ciate Director at the Broad Insti­tute of MIT and Har­vard and a co-​​investigator for this grant, where they will sequence the genomes of 100 hip mutants to iden­tify the muta­tions, which will help deci­pher the mech­a­nism respon­sible for antibi­otic tolerance.

The goal of this research project is to iden­tify the mech­a­nism behind the phe­nom­enon of resis­tant bac­teria,” said Lewis. “We know that pathogens pro­duce dor­mant per­sister cells, which then resist antibi­otics, but we need to know how it hap­pens in order to develop effec­tive treat­ments against these dor­mant cells.”

Because per­sister cells are thought to be respon­sible for chronic dis­eases, such as tuber­cu­losis, Dr. Lewis’ work on iden­ti­fying the origin of per­sister cells is an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to this crit­ical field of research.

According to the NIH review panel that eval­u­ated the pro­posal, “The study has the poten­tial to pro­vide viable clin­ical strate­gies to manage infec­tions in which per­sister cells are the main driver of sub­op­timal response to antibi­otic treat­ment and con­se­quently rev­o­lu­tionize antibi­otic tar­geting and therapy.”

For more infor­ma­tion about Dr. Lewis’ research, please con­tact Jenny Eriksen at (617) 373‑2802 or via email at j.​eriksen@​neu.​edu.

About the Antimi­cro­bial Dis­covery Center

The mis­sion of the Antimi­cro­bial Dis­covery Center, founded in 2006, is to trans­late basic sci­ence dis­cov­eries into novel antimi­cro­bial ther­a­pies to combat Biowar­fare and con­ven­tional pathogen threats. Antimi­cro­bial drug dis­covery is in a state of crisis. The last class of broad-​​spectrum com­pounds, the flu­o­ro­quinolones, was dis­cov­ered 40 years ago. The rise of mul­tidrug resis­tant pathogens and the threat of genet­i­cally engi­neered bioweapons rep­re­sent an urgent need for novel antimi­cro­bial ther­a­pies. The Center, funded by grants from the NIH, NSF, and DOE, is directed by Kim Lewis and draws fac­ulty mem­bers from Biology, Chem­istry, Physics, and Phar­ma­ceu­tical Sciences.

About North­eastern University

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​.north​eastern​.edu.