Foundation fund

Generous donation leads to funding critical sepsis research

Professor Christopher McDevitt of the University of Melbourne, head of laboratory at the Doherty Institute, received a competition Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund (VMRAF) grant to continue his research on breaking bacterial resistance to antibiotics in the treatment of sepsis.

Sepsis is an overwhelming inflammatory response of the body to an infection which, if not treated properly, can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. In Australia, there are approximately 55,000 cases of sepsis each year resulting in over 8,000 deaths. Sepsis remains the leading cause of death in hospital.

The increase in drug-resistant bacteria complicates traditional sepsis treatment approaches. The use of ineffective antimicrobials complicates treatment by missing or delaying the administration of effective treatments.

Professor McDevitt’s project through the VMRAF hopes to solve this problem by identifying ways to effectively treat sepsis again using first-line antibiotics.

The VMRAF Grants Program was created to support and accelerate health and medical research through the provision of one-time grants to successful applicants.

Professor McDevitt received $100,000 under this program.

The team benefited from a generous donation from the Earlier family foundation to apply for the grant, thereby doubling their funding.

“We are extremely grateful for the Foundation’s support as it has given us the impetus to continue this essential research,” said Professor McDevitt.

“It has always been difficult to support basic science and now, as we emerge from COVID, the landscape is even more competitive.”

“Without the contribution of the Prior Family Foundation, we would not have been able to pursue this opportunity and seek additional support for our research through the Victorian Government.”,

Over the past four years, the team has succeeded in showing that a molecule called PBT2 – originally developed as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases – could be associated with certain types of antibiotics to restore their effectiveness against the drug-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis and pneumonia.

With support from the Prior Family Foundation, they built on these findings to reinstate the use of front-line antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis.

“Antibiotic resistance is the next pandemic. Our work focuses on finding first-line antibiotics with which our molecule, PBT2, can synergize and restore treatment efficacy. This approach offers a unique way to rescue the effectiveness of commonly used antibiotics against drug-resistant bacteria that cause sepsis,” said Professor McDevitt.

David Prior, founder of the Prior Family Foundation, said they were committed to supporting research into this deadly disease.

“Cutting-edge medical research takes time and requires significant resources, skills and knowledge to produce a result,” Prior said.

“We want to be able to support researchers like Professor McDevitt and help raise sepsis awareness, in hopes of informing public health policy.”

“We can’t do it alone though, and we encourage other philanthropists to join us in supporting the search for solutions to treat sepsis.”