Rising Star winners

Basil Wicki

Session – Thursday 4th July 15.20 – 15.35

Abstract title – Chemical and genetic effects on mycobacterial drug combinations

Affiliation – Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

I am a PhD student at the Department of Biomedicine Basel, working in the research group of Dr. Lucas Boeck. Our primary objective is to identify bacterial mechanisms contributing to treatment failure, exploring their molecular underpinnings, and identifying potential targets for novel antimicrobial strategies, with a particular emphasis on Mycobacterium abscessus.

With a background in microbiology, I earned both my bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Basel. During my master's studies, I conducted research at Bioversys AG, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, focusing on the role of transcriptional regulators as targets for anti-virulence compounds in Acinetobacter baumannii. Following my master's degree, I furthered my expertise at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, where I engaged in a civil service under the supervision of Prof. Sébastien Gagneux in the Tuberculosis Ecology and Evolution group, investigating resistance mechanisms in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Currently, my PhD project revolves around elucidating the landscape of drug interactions in Mycobacterium abscessus, aiming to uncover potential avenues for improved treatment strategies. Throughout my academic education, I have developed a keen interest in addressing the antimicrobial resistance crisis and the challenges posed by difficult-to-treat pathogens. It drives me to understand the underlying mechanisms and devise novel approaches to address the pressing challenges posed by antimicrobial resistance and the rise of treatment-resistant pathogens.

Mycobacterium abscessus is a highly drug-resistant and difficult-to-treat nontuberculous mycobacterium. Extensive and prolonged multi-drug treatments mostly fail. In this study, we systematically studied drug combinations to identify chemical and genetic properties that drive synergistic and antagonistic interactions. By analysing over 300,000 drug combinations, we unravel the complex landscape of drug interactions in Mycobacterium abscessus and highlight the potential of combination therapies to ultimately improve treatment outcomes.

Jennifer Pollock

Session – Thursday 4th July 15.00 – 15.15

Abstract title – The relationship between blood eosinophil count, airway eosinophilic inflammation and bronchiectasis disease severity: data from the EMBARC-BRIDGE study

Affiliation – University of Dundee, Dundee, UK

Jennifer Pollock is a PhD researcher within the Respiratory Research Group at the University of Dundee. She completed her MSci in Immunology at the University of Glasgow, before moving to Dundee to carry out her PhD which centres around characterising the eosinophilic endotype of bronchiectasis, with a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of currently licensed T2-modulating therapies for the management of this disease subset.

~20% of bronchiectasis patients present with peripheral blood eosinophilia despite the absence of asthma and/or ABPA, yet whether blood eosinophil counts are truly reflective of the airway inflammatory environment, and whether eosinophilic airway inflammation relates to bronchiectasis severity and exacerbations is not known. To further investigate the role of eosinophilic inflammation in bronchiectasis, we developed a novel mass spectrometry-based assay for the quantification of key eosinophil proteins within bronchiectasis patient airway samples. Here, airway eosinophil proteins were significantly elevated in those with elevated blood eosinophil counts, and in those culturing P. aeruginosa. In addition, eosinophilic airway inflammation, measured in sputum, negatively correlated with lung function and positively correlated with radiological severity, together suggesting that eosinophilic airway inflammation contributes to bronchiectasis severity.

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