This is an interview with a PhD student of the Disease Intervention Strategies projects in a series of background articles. Keep following this website for the next interview in this series.
Interview with Alexander Bakker, PhD student of the project ‘Screening, optimising and target profiling of novel antibiotics’ at Leiden University.
In the battle against antibiotic resistance, Alexander Bakker is testing existing chemical compounds to see whether they can be used as antibiotics. These compounds were originally created to treat cancer and other diseases.
“As a chemist, I really enjoy making new molecules. This was the most important reason to start this PhD project: I work at a research group in Leiden that makes a lot of unique chemical compounds each year.
The compounds made here play a central role in my research. They were originally created to treat diseases like cancer or brain diseases, but for my project we tested hundreds of them to see if they have the potential to be used as antibiotics.
Some of the results were very promising. We are now focusing on the two best compounds, trying to figure out exactly how they work and how we can make them even better. Our hypothesis is that our compounds work as antibiotics because they bind to certain proteins and then disturb their activity. These proteins are responsible for performing all kinds of work in the bacteria, and shutting them down with antibiotics would mean shutting down the work they do.
The most optimal outcome of my research would be to have a new starting point for the development of a new antibiotic. A lot of bacteria have become resistant to the ‘weapons’ that we use now, so we need to find new ones. I am very happy to be working on a real threat. This makes it feel very valuable.”