Postdoc fellow appointed to tackle antibiotic resistance

antibiotic tablets and capsules

Enea Sancho Vaello PhotoDr Enea Sancho-Vaello was recently  appointed as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr Jessica Blair,  Institute of Microbiology and Infection. To mark World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2019, Enea talked us through her background and aspirations for the future of antibiotic resistance research.

What’s your background?

I consider myself to be a ‘broad-spectrum’ protein structure biologist, having worked on a diverserange of biomedical projects in four different laboratories. I have worked with soluble proteins (enzymes of the urea cycle and chitinases), but also with integral membrane proteins (M.tuberculosis cell envelope biosynthesis enzymes and Salmonella PhoQ) and antimicrobial peptides. Throughout my career, I have gained expertise in protein crystallization and biophysical techniques.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Without a doubt, obtaining the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship has been one of the most important achievements in my scientific career to date. Applying to this fellowship was an important milestone, since I could use my acquired knowledge to propose a new line of investigation. To receive the support of the Horizon 2020 programme in order to undertake this project is extremely motivating to me.

What attracted you to working in Birmingham?

I was interested in working at the Institute of Microbiology and Infection due to the great scientific quality of the work done in the antibiotic resistance field. For this step of my career, I was looking for a place where I could develop my research but also somewhere offering a positive scientific atmosphere for learning and collaboration.

What are you most looking forward doing in your new role?

I am eager to find out if the ideas that we are proposing lead us in the right direction in our understanding of efflux regulation. The first step of the project is cloning and purifying the protein I will be working on. I am looking forward to completing this step so that I can get started on the interesting biophysical experiments using the rational designed inhibitors.

Where do you see your research group in five years’ time?

In the next five years, I am sure that Dr Blair´s group is going to be in a leading position in the field of efflux pump research. This emerging group has very motivated members and their high scientific level stimulates the continued progress of the group. Regarding the project, I hope to obtain interesting results in order to become an independent researcher and to continue working in the antibiotic resistance field.

What do you think the future holds for the field of antibiotic resistance?

I think that we have the potential to develop new drugs to fight MDR and XDR strains, but we need the financial support to perform our research. In my opinion, it is mandatory to increase the investment in the area of antibiotic resistance research, since it entails a serious threat to global public health. On the other hand, I am aware that life always finds a way, especially bacteria. Controlling and treating these dangerous strains is not going to be easy, but I am optimistic that we will find a solution.