The Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research at 6 years

Published on 27 June 2023

WCAIR has recently published its 6 year report, sharing our achievements since inception back in 2017.

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The Wellcome Centre is a world-leading hub for neglected tropical disease (NTD) drug discovery and technological innovation, with a focus on research, training, and public engagement. With over £18 million in funding from Wellcome since the Centre’s inception, we are developing and exploiting new methods, technologies and processes that help us understand and combat infectious diseases, changing the drug discovery paradigm, and making drug discovery faster and smarter. We are passing on our skills and knowledge to researchers in countries most affected by NTDs; Ghana and Brazil, in particular. We also aim to inform and inspire others in relation to how science can combat disease and poverty.  

Our world-leading molecular parasitology teams, Mode-of-Action group and Drug Discovery Unit develop new and versatile technologies, including new genetic and proteomic methods. We are developing improved in vitro and in vivo imaging to better predict clinical efficacy and to allow us to understand why compounds work or fail. We are radically reforming our drug discovery design-make-test-analyse cycle to accelerate projects to key milestones, or project closure. New compound sets are being assembled to expand available chemical space. Other avenues we are exploring to increase productivity include improved efficiency of protein production for X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM studies that enable structure-based drug discovery. Our world-leading training and public engagement teams and programmes allow us to further broaden our impact. New equipment also helps to ensure that all areas of our work are underpinned by state-of-the-art technology. 

Other areas covered in our report include promotions and professional awards. There’s a retrospective from Sir Mike Ferguson, marking “35 years of the Ferguson Lab in Dundee”. Two case studies describe the delivery of new anti-leishmanial drugs and the development of a trypanosomiasis rapid diagnostic test; indeed, these impact case studies formed part of our latest biological sciences REF 2021 submission. Images of the parasites we study appear on the cover and on other pages and there’s even a WCAIR mural on a seven-storey building in Dundee.

We are hugely grateful to Wellcome for their continued support, and we thank the many groups and organisations with which we collaborate. In summary, WCAIR is improving our understanding of pathogen biology, has delivered new technologies, new anti-infective drugs, a trained workforce, and a more engaged public. We hope you enjoy reading our report.

The image on the cover of the report shows a cross-section of a mouse small intestine infected with Cryptosporidium parasites. The image was taken by Dr Ross Bacchetti, a previous PhD student in Dr. Mattie Pawlowic's lab. Dr. Bacchetti worked to investigate proteins that are involved in parasite transmission. The surface of intestinal cells are stained in white and their DNA is stained in cyan, and the Cryptosporidium parasites appear magenta. Cryptosporidium causes diarrhoea which can be deadly for young, malnourished children. At WCAIR we are working on technology to learn more about this important parasite and to create new medicines to treat the disease.

Story category Public interest