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Coffee with Nathaniel Martin

Professor Nathaniel Martin leads an independent research group with a major focus on applying bioorganic chemistry in pursuit of novel anti-infectives and molecular tools to study epigenetic processes and is the Partner Representative of Leiden University within the NCOH Executive Board.

Update from the NCOH Executive Board

We would hereby like to take the opportunity to welcome the new Chair of the Supervisory Board, prof. Geert de Snoo. He is the new director of the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and has followed up Mieke Zaanen as the SB representative for KNAW. We are very pleased he has accepted the position of the chair and look forward working with him.

NCOH events

Due to the corona measures in place for the last few months, several NCOH meetings had to be postponed. We are happy to announce that we will organise a new NCOH Event on 29 October 2020! Depending on the corona measures at the time, this may well be a smaller event for registered participants and/or a digitally broadcasted event. In the meantime we will be hosting a series of NCOH Webinars on COVID-19, with a special focus on the One Health approach to current challenges. So keep an eye on our calendar!

Role of cats

Currently much of COVID-19 research is done through collaborations of our NCOH Partners, this holds for both the observational as clinical research. To highlight a One Health example is the research on minks and companion animals. Human-to-human transmission is the driver of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the possibility that the new coronavirus SARS-Cov2 will infect other animal species again remains of concern. In addition to the current research on mink farms, partners within NCOH are starting to research the role of cats in potential SARS-Cov2 transmission of this respiratory tract infection. In this context, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) has asked for research into (virus) transmission in cats by collaborating research groups within the Netherlands Centre for One Health (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University Utrecht, Wageningen University & Research, Erasmus MC and research centres in human health care).

Scientific output

The Supervisory Board and Executive Board have decided that all scientific output, i.e. publications and presentations, from projects of the NCOH PhD Program or projects with an NCOH label should include the following acknowledgment statement: “The present work/This manuscript was part of the research programme of the Netherlands Centre for One Health (www.ncoh.nl)”. Authorship affiliations with NCOH are not required – the NCOH is not a legal entity – but mentioning the statement in the acknowledgment section should suffice.

Impact on The Martin Group by the COVID-19 pandemic

The Martin group is part of the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL) at Leiden University. Research in the Martin group is largely aimed at developing new molecular strategies to address antibiotic resistance. With a firm foundation in bioorganic chemistry, the approaches we use include the design and synthesis of new antibiotics as well as developing small molecule inhibitors of different resistance mechanisms. After more than 10 years at Utrecht University, the Martin group moved to Leiden University in July 2018. The emphasis on academic drug discovery in Leiden provides for a stimulating and highly collaborative research environment.

Like many others, our research group has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lock down. In mid March the word came from the university administration that all experimental work was to put on hold indefinitely. In the weeks that followed our group members did their best to stay productive with data processing and manuscript writing but of course lab work is at the heart of what we do. Thankfully in mid May we were able to resume some lab based activities, albeit at a reduced capacity so as to adhere to distancing guidelines.

How will COVID-19 impact the future of AMR research? One assumes that the pandemic will serve as a reminder of the value of investing in new technologies that can protect society against infectious disease. However, while warnings about the threat of AMR have been escalating for years, the clinical development of novel antibiotics, with truly new mechanisms of action, is nearly at a standstill in 2020. Let’s hope that the current pandemic leads to real action in the form of both the “push” and “pull” incentives that are so desperately needed to refill the empty antibiotics pipeline.