Meet Luiza Galarion, Newton Fund grant awardee.

Research topic: Towards A Renaissance in Antibiotic Discovery

Host institution / UK university: University of Leeds

Home institution: University of the Philippines Diliman

Degree programme: PhD Molecular and Cell Biology

Describe your PhD research in layman’s terms.

Our medical community’s ability to treat certain infectious diseases is now seriously hindered by the emergence of superbugs that are already resistant to our current antibiotics. With the short supply of effective antibiotics, there is a pressing need to find new ones. My research aims to address the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance by finding novel antibiotics from non-canonical sources and utilising innovative approaches that have not been previously explored or used in the antibiotics discovery field. 

What is the relevance of your study to the economic development, welfare and poverty issues in the Philippines?

The effect of antibiotic resistance in developing countries, such as the Philippines, is exacerbated by the extreme combination of biological, pharmacological, and societal variables. My research will develop approaches to aid the discovery of novel antibiotics which will ultimately benefit communities and populations suffering higher rates of infectious diseases and disease outbreaks. Presently, there is insufficient scientific research on antibacterial discovery in the country. Studies such as this will contribute to sharpening the ability and technical skills of the local scientific community to carry out antibiotic research tailored to the needs of our country (e.g. focus on drugs targeting infectious agents pre-dominant here like Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccocus aureus, multidrug-resistant enteric bacteria, or Salmonella). 

How do you envision your UK education can contribute to your future career as a researcher?

The expertise and international link/s obtained will facilitate pioneering and more advanced antibiotic discovery studies. The collaboration with UK will provide both the support and commitment to explore and initiate innovative ideas and research that are otherwise impossible, if not challenging, to progress independently in the country. For the collaboration to be productive and successful, constant consultation with the host institution will be initiated as well as staff exchange or student placement/recruitment – in this way, there will be continuous trade of knowledge, and skills development. Eventually, I hope to broaden the scope of my research by incorporating objectives that will produce outcomes benefiting both UK and the Philippines, thus maintaining the partnership.

How has the commitment of the UK in science and technology influence your decision in choosing the Newton Fund?

What encouraged me to apply for a Newton scholarship is UK’s significant assistance and commitment to research - be it fundamental or applied. UK education and Newton Fund are dedicated in reaching out to developing countries by providing them an opportunity to gain experience in the most modern and competitive environment. UK indeed remains to be among the top contributors in science and technology disciplines and their efforts in forming links to other countries genuinely demonstrate their dedication to innovation.