SwissTB Award 2013 joint winner is GHI's Ruben C. Hartkoorn
22.03.13 - For twelve years the Swiss Foundation for Tuberculosis Research, SwissTB, has awarded annually a prize of CHF 10'000 for a research project in the field of tuberculosis. The SwissTB Award 2013 goes one side to the basic researcher Ruben C. Hartkoorn of the EPFL's Global Health Institute, on the other side to the clinical researcher Lukas Fenner from the University of Bern. These two research projects are an important contribution to better understanding – in order to better fight - TB that is still on the rise worldwide.
New research in the fight against tuberculosis
“We had numerous top submissions for the SwissTB-Award 2013", says Dr. Otto Brändli, president of the Swiss Foundation for Tuberculosis Research SwissTB. "The choice has not been easy for us. In the end, we decided to split the prize money and to take into consideration a project from basic research on one hand and a project from clinical research on the other”. Thus, both Ruben C. Hartkoorn of the GHI and Luke Fenner from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine of the University of Bern have been recognized with the award. The award ceremony will be held on this year's World TB Day in the context of the TB-Symposium of the Swiss Lung Foundation in Münchenwiler.
Promising drug approach
The pharmacologist Dr. Ruben C. Hartkoorn has been working for several years as a post-doctoral researcher in the team of microbiologist Prof. Stewart Cole at the EPFL. "Since my childhood in sub-Saharan Africa I have been interested in studing tuberculosis, which is on the rise again in the world, also in its multi-and extensively drug-resistant forms”, explains Hartkoorn for the motivation behind his work.
This work deals with the study of a non-cytotoxic substances that is effective against the causative agent of tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The now awarded research shows the effect of the naturally occurring substance Pyridomycin in combating tuberculosis. Pyridomycin is produced by a soil bacterium and like isoniazid, a present day main drug against tuberculosis, pyridomycin acts by inhibiting the production of critical components of the tuberculosis cell wall.
As Hartkoorn and his team were able to demonstrate, the use of Pyridomycin as opposed to Isoniazid has a decisive advantage: it needs no specific activation by the tuberculosis pathogen, and is thus active against strains that are resistant to Isoniazid. "With our research we have gained an important insights into how to develop new drugs against tuberculosis - particularly against isoniazid resistant strains”, says pharmacologist Hartkoorn on the relevance of his research.
Source: SwissTB press release