2.5 Million Euro Grant Awarded to Swiss TPH for Tuberculosis Research

31.03.2020

Sébastien Gagneux, Head of the Medical Parasitology and Infection Biology Department at Swiss TPH, was awarded a European Research Council Advanced Grant for EUR 2.5 million over five years to conduct research on tuberculosis. The highly competitive grant supports scientists who are conducting cutting-edge research in their field. Gagneux’s research focuses on multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Researchers on tuberculosis (TB) at Swiss TPH conduct fundamental and translational research, focusing on the biology, immunology and genomic epidemiology of TB. (Photo: Joachim Pelikan / Swiss TPH)

Tuberculosis (TB) is the world's deadliest infectious disease, claiming over 4,000 lives each day. This equates to more daily casualties than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. It is also the biggest killer of all antimicrobial resistant (AMR) related deaths.

Gagneux's research focuses on multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) within the project "Linking within-host and between-host evolution of multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis". The project aims to better understand how resistance to new antibiotics emerge - knowledge that is crucial not only for TB, but also for other diseases that are affected by drug resistance.

Better understanding of M. tuberculosis to fight drug resistance

The European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants are designed to support excellent scientists in any field at the career stage at which they are already established research leaders with a recognised track record of research achievements. The grant, worth EUR 2.5 million over five years, will allow for Gagneux to build on his previous work on transmission of multidrug-resistant Mtb between patients, with a new focus on what happens inside patients, and identifying any connections between what occurs inside and between patients.

"We are interested in finding out how the TB bacteria evolve over time inside patients, and at what point the bacteria jump from one patient to the next," said Sébastien Gagneux, Head of Medical Parasitology and Infection Biology (MPI) at Swiss TPH. "We also want to find out how the diversity of bacteria within patients influences what happens when a new patient becomes infected, and how this effects the development of resistance to new drugs."

Gagneux received his PhD from the University of Basel in 2001 and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, USA before serving as a Programme Leader at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London, UK. He now heads the MPI Department at Swiss TPH and is an Associate Professor of Infection Biology at the University of Basel.

"We cannot let progress be hindered by AMR"

For 40 years, no new TB drug have been approved. However recently, after many years of development, two new antibiotics have been introduced for the treatment of multidrug-resistant TB. "It has taken this long to generate just a few new TB drugs, and the biggest danger is that resistance will emerge to these drugs. This ERC grant will allow us to not only progress knowledge on multidrug resistant Mtb, but also generate a greater understanding on how resistance to new antibiotics emerge, which together should help us slow the emergence of drug resistance in TB and other diseases." said Gagneux.

Swiss TPH and Tuberculosis Research

Swiss TPH is committed to alleviate TB related suffering, working on five continents both on human and animal TB, from basic research to health systems. Swiss TPH activities span from the host-pathogen interaction, to the evolution of antibiotic resistance and the host immune responses to TB infection. Swiss TPH conducts clinical trials of new TB diagnostics, drugs and vaccines in collaboration with our long-term partners at the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Tanzania and the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases in Georgia.

Sébastien Gagneux

Sébastien Gagneux, Associate Professor, PhD