ALTANT ASIA: Industry and academia join forces to combat antibiotic resistance
It is one of today’s greatest threats: antibiotic resistance of human and animal pathogens. In the ALTANT ASIA program, Utrecht University and Zoetis (former Pfizer Animal Health) join forces to develop anti-infectives to treat animal diseases while minimizing the impact on resistance.
Animals and humans have efficient first line defence systems that prevent infections by pathogens they encounter daily. Recent studies have shown how small naturally occurring peptides and derivatives thereof exert multiple immuno-modulatory functions while not evoking antimicrobial resistance. These host defence peptides are the starting point for the ALTANT ASIA program. ALTANT is co-ordinated by Immuno Valley, a business driven public-private consortium operating at the interface of human and animal health.
Evidence for airborne transmission of H5N1 influenza between mammals
In the Science issue of 22 June 2012, the Dutch scientist Fouchier, along with his colleagues, provided evidence that airborne transmission of influenza between mammals is feasible without having to mix with other flu viruses in an intermediate host. This may pose a risk for pandemic influenza.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza A/H5N1 virus can cause morbidity and mortality in humans. Via genetic engineering and serial infection, Fouchier’s group at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, were able to create a mutant H5N1 virus that can spread among ferrets without direct contact. None of the ferrets infected with the mutant H5N1 virus died. In addition, they established that the transmissible viruses were sensitive to the antiviral drug oseltamivir.
In the accompanying video from the Erasmus Medical Center, Professor Fouchier explains why they chose to use H5N1 for their research and what kind of experiments were performed. In addition, he shares his views with regard to how public health can benefit from the research. Finally, he emphasizes that threats posed to society are minimal. The overall drive of Fouchier is to better understand the evolution and molecular biology of respiratory viruses in humans and animals.
Cancer Genomics Centre Netherlands receives 30.7 million euro grant
The Cancer Genomics Centre Netherlands (CGC), a consortium of 26 Dutch research groups, has received a grant of 30.7 million euro from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.
On 27 January 2012 Professor Bernards and his team from the Netherlands Cancer Institute, one of the members of the Cancer Genomics Centre, published in Nature their discovery that colon cancer patients with mutations in the BRAF gene might benefit from a combination of existing medicines. Only eight months after discovery a clinical trial for this group of patients was initiated.
The underlying mechanism that can turn a normal cell into a cancer cell is still not fully understood. The primary objective of the CGC research program is to obtain a complete picture of the genetic changes that turn a cell into a tumor cell and a full understanding of how each of these changes contributes to the behavior of tumor cells. The CGC believes that in this way it can contribute to the development of improved diagnostic methods as well as better treatment methods and products for cancer patients. The CGC was founded in 2002 with a 15.1 million euro grant from the Netherlands Genomics Initiative.