£6m project to tackle illnesses

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A £6 million research programme is being launched in Sheffield to tackle deadly infectious diseases.

Academics at Sheffield University’s new Florey Institute are set to study how bacteria interact with patients’ immune systems to cause illnesses, while the Imagine project will use super-powered microscopes to examine cells more closely than ever before.

Eight senior researchers will be taken on to help with the work, while state-of-the art equipment is being installed at the institute, allowing experts to bring together three different advanced imaging techniques.

Prof Simon Foster, director of the Imagine project, said: “The thing that will make Sheffield unique is our ability to bring the imaging methods together.

“A big challenge, particularly in microscopy, is resolution – our ability to see very small objects.

“With an organism like MRSA, an infectious agent that is very small, current technology has only been able to show where molecules are inside a cell.

“The new technologies will allow us to gain an understanding of what underpins the life of that organism.”

The Florey Institute’s long-term target is to develop new treatments for two bacteria– S pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia and meningitis, and S aureus, which can lead to endocarditis, a life-threatening heart infection.

The institute is named after Sir Howard Florey, the university’s former chairman of pathology, who conducted the first clinical trials of penicillin in 1941.