First ever national PhD Training Programme in Antimicrobial Resistance by the Medical Research Foundation

Declan Kohl from the University of Leeds, School of Biomedical Sciences has been selected for the first-ever national PhD Training Programme in Antimicrobial Resistance.

This programme was launched by the Medical Research Foundation this autumn. The innovative research conducted by this cohort of 18 students from 16 UK universities will contribute to the ambitious aims of the UKRI-funded cross-council research consortia which is tackling AMR on a global scale.

Antibiotics transformed healthcare in the 20th century and are still considered one of greatest medical achievements of the era. Today, we rely on antibiotics to treat life-threatening bacterial infections and to prevent infection after surgery. But antibiotic overuse and misuse has led to antibiotics becoming increasingly ineffective and antimicrobial resistance, specifically antibiotic resistance, now poses a global threat to human life.

Working alongside the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Foundation spotted a gap in funding for PhD studentships in antimicrobial resistance research – right now there are few emerging researchers trained in the multidisciplinary approach required to tackle the antimicrobial resistance problem. This new PhD Training Programme is designed to help build a strong, active network of early career researchers by bringing together those who study microbiology, genetics and medicine with social scientists, vets, dentists, ecologists, environmental biologists, anthropologists, chemists and biomedical engineers.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England who is a leading advocate on the need to address antimicrobial resistance said: “I am thrilled that the Medical Research Foundation is building on the successful work of the UK Research Councils by investing £2.85m to create the UK’s only national PhD Training Programme in Antimicrobial Resistance. Training the next generation of researchers in this area is vital and we must equip scientists with the multi-disciplinary skills needed to conduct world-leading research into this global threat.”

Dr Jonathan Pearce, MRC Head of Immunity and Infections, added:

Over the past five years, in partnership with the other UKRI Councils, we’ve made huge efforts to better understand the threat of AMR and find solutions – together investing £44 million in 78 UK projects and £41 million in projects worldwide. A key aspect of recent investment has been interdisciplinarity – bringing researchers with different expertise together to look at complex problems from a different angle. The Medical Research Foundation’s AMR PhD programme is exactly the type of initiative required to develop the future cadre of interdisciplinary researchers that we need.

Declan’s research will contribute to the development of next generation biosensors to diagnose the cause of infectious diseases. Faster and more accurate diagnosis will help inform treatment and reduce the number of unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics.

Commenting on his motivation to join the scheme, Declan said:

AMR is an issue that undermines the great advances we have made in modern medicine and renders many of our pharmaceutical tools powerless. It is down to the next generation of researchers to address these problems and to make the next advancements in medical treatment. This effort, by the Medical Research Foundation, to build a truly cohesive set of PhD students has already given me endless support and advice and I hope it will act as a springboard for my future career.

The Foundation will also reach a further 150 UK PhD students training in AMR-related research through training and network-building activities such as online resources, summer residential training weeks, annual AMR conferences and tailored meetings responsive to developments and opportunities relevant to the AMR field.