An international audience attended the launch
The latest scientific research against the potentially deadly Aspergillus fungus was displayed today (9 September) as the Manchester Fungal Infection Group (MFIG) was officially opened by Professor Sir Robert Boyd.
From new antifungal drug opportunities to the genetic basis for aspergillosis, the quality of science in this topic has ‘improved immeasurably over the last decade’, according to Professor Keith Gull FRS from Oxford University who spoke at the meeting.
MFIG is a new international centre of excellence for fungal infection biology and translational antifungal research at The University of Manchester. It is integrating its research with that of clinicians and industry.
Fungal disease is much more common than many people realise as Professor David Denning of The University of Manchester pointed out, with around 300 million individuals affected annually and over 1.5 million deaths.
Aspergillus is responsible for many of these illnesses, a conservative estimate is 13 million. It is an airborne fungus that everyone breathes in daily. In those who are immunosuppressed such as those undergoing organ transplantation or treatment for leukaemia, it causes a disease called invasive aspergillosis.
In those with damage in their lungs such as tuberculosis or COPD, it can cause chronic pulmonary aspergillosis – a slowly progressive and destructive disease of the lungs. In those with asthma or cystic fibrosis it can cause fungal asthma with wheezing?, mucous plugging of the airways, poor asthma control and life-threatening asthmatic attacks.
MFIG is focused on understanding the reasons for this range of disease and why Aspergillus is so commonly fatal.
Professor Sir Robert Boyd, previously Dean of the Medical School in Manchester said: “The opportunity for major health improvements by high quality research crossing traditional boundaries has never been greater. MFIG exemplifies the range of skills and specialised resources necessary to bring out major breakthroughs in fungal disease. I am delighted to see such a strong multidisciplinary team hosted in Manchester.”
At the opening meeting, Professor Jack Edwards from the University of California, Los Angeles spoke on the trials and tribulations of developing a fungal vaccine, in this case for potentially fatal Candida infections.
Professor Gerald Bills of The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine and Texas Therapeutics Institute, Houston spoke on the latest new class of antifungals, echinocandins, now selling nearly $1 billion annually.
Professor Keith Gull FRS summarised the state of fungal diseases, contrasted with other infections in the keynote lecture, ’Infectious Diseases in the 21st Century: The current state of our ignorance’.
Professor Nick Read, Director of MFIG, stated: “Our intent is to transform the understanding of Aspergillus biology and disease. We anticipate identifying options for new antifungal drugs, the genetic basis of aspergillosis and a pathway to vaccine development.”
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