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Zackery Bulman receives $3.6M grant to combat drug-resistant superbugs

The 5-year R01 grant is the largest ever for the Department of Pharmacy Practice

Dr. Zackery Bulman, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, recently received a $3.66 million, 5-year R01 grant as PI for his project titled, “Precise Combination Strategies Targeting Carbapenem-Resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae” (R01AI173064). This project will develop new antibiotic combination treatment approaches for drug-resistant superbugs, which can cause serious infections associated with high mortality rates.

Developing new treatments for a major global threat Heading link

Zackery Bulman

Superbugs such as the antibiotic-resistant bacterium K. pneumoniae, commonly found in the intestines, are considered a top priority by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). According to the CDC, more than 2.8 million microbial-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, resulting in over 35,000 deaths. These pathogens also impose a large financial burden on society, costing the U.S. an estimated $2.8 billion per year.

Bulman’s project will strategically combine two different classes of antibiotics, beta-lactam/beta-lactamase inhibitors and aminoglycosides, to develop new, more personalized therapies for drug-resistant K. pneumoniae infections.

“There is a significant opportunity to improve the effects of aminoglycosides by selecting ones that are tailored to the patient’s isolate based on the pathogen’s resistance gene signature,” says Bulman. The project will also optimize antibiotic doses, timing, and duration, and will aim to better clarify the process of interaction between aminoglycosides and beta-lactams, which remain unclear.

The grant is also a significant milestone for the Department of Pharmacy Practice. “Dr. Bulman’s award is the largest R01 in the history of our department and will support advancing his important work to find much needed treatment options for drug-resistant superbugs,” says Dr. Edith Nutescu, head of the department.

This project is made possible through collaborations with renowned experts in antimicrobial pharmacology from around the world. Dr. Bulman (PI) leads a team that includes Dr. Alexander Mankin (Co-I, UIC Pharmaceutical Sciences), Dr. Juergen Bulitta (Co-I, University of Florida), Dr. Yinzhi Lang (Co-I, University of Florida), Dr. Alan Hauser (Co-I, Northwestern University), Dr. Egon Ozer (Co-I, Northwestern University), and Dr. Jian Li (Monash University, Australia). “The collective expertise of this team provides an unparalleled opportunity for us to be able to overcome some of the therapeutic challenges presented by these superbugs,” Bulman says.