Importance of Research Highlighted at 14th Health Science Prize
The awards ceremony for the fourteenth annual Health Science Prize was held on 8 June at the headquarters of its organising body, the Caja Rural Foundation. Representatives from the Autonomous Government of Andalusia, Granada City Hall, the University of Granada and Caja Rural speaking at the event all agreed that research is one of the driving forces behind the economic development of Spain and the province of Granada specifically. This year’s 25,000-euro prize was awarded to the research study led by Dr Daniel López Serrano of the National Centre for Biotechnology (CNB) in Madrid, on a promising new treatment for hospital superbugs.
Speaking at the event, Caja Rural CEO Antonio León, Granada's government delegate Sandra García, mayor of Granada Francisco Cuenca and University of Granada rector Pilar Aranda all referred to the importance of science and research, describing them as one of the cornerstones of economic development in Spain. They also highlighted the role played by innovation and knowledge in the local economy, where the Granada Health Science Technological Park (PTS) is a leading example.
The winning research project, led by Dr Daniel López Serrano, set out to explore potential solutions to a major problem: in 2016, 30% of infections contracted in Spanish hospitals were caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and 20% of those resulted in death. Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most dangerous bacteria in hospital settings because many clinical isolates are resistant to penicillin (MRSA strains). Dr López Serrano’s lab has found a way to destroy the bacteria’s protective shield so that they can be ‘attacked’ by conventional antibiotics.
The findings are of dual importance. Firstly, the study describes a new and potentially life-saving treatment for MRSA infections, which could help relieve symptoms in the thousands of patients who contract these superbugs in Spanish hospitals each year. Secondly, the new treatment could mean that antibiotics ruled out as treatment options because of their inability to fight superbugs, which are becoming more and more common in Spanish hospitals, could be brought back into use. “This means we'll have many more tools we can use to fight these bugs and we can be optimistic about our fight against infections by multidrug-resistant bacteria,” Dr López Serrano said when he spoke at the event.
The study was chosen as the winner of this year's award because it "tackles one of the most important problems in medicine today: antibiotic resistance in aggressive bacteria, proposing an innovative procedure to make them sensitive to antibiotics again.” This year's judges were Ignacio Molina (Biomedical Research Centre), Lourdes Núñez (PTS Andalusian Public Foundation), Javier Martín and Elena González (López Neyra Institute), Jorge Fernández (College of Physicians), Fernando Martínez (College of Pharmacists) and Aurea Bordons (Autonomous Government of Andalusia).