SPRINGBOARD Final Conference Celebrates Success in Strengthening Antibacterial Drug Discovery and Collaborative Research

Photo of conference participants

The SPRINGBOARD project, a European Union Horizon 2020 Twinning initiative, recently concluded with a final conference. Launched in September 2020, the project aimed to elevate the research capabilities of the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (LIOS) in the area of antibacterial drug discovery by fostering collaboration with leading European universities –  the University of Antwerp, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Florence, and the University of Helsinki.

The conference, titled “Achievements of the SPRINGBOARD Project,” brought together experts and project partners to discuss the latest innovations in antibacterial drug discovery. Attracting over 80 participants, the event served as a platform to explore recent advancements in antibacterial compound discovery and outline future directions for collaborative research.

About the SPRINGBOARD Project: SPRINGBOARD focused on building an excellence platform for the advanced discovery of novel antibacterial drugs. The project sought to enhance LIOS’s research capacity by improving its competence in identifying new enzymatic targets, exploring natural products and synthetic analogues, and developing peptide antibiotics as potential targets for new antibacterial therapies.

SPRINGBOARD’s Impact on LIOS: The project coordinator highlighted the positive influence of the SPRINGBOARD project on LIOS:

  • Opportunities for Researchers: Twelve early-stage researchers spent two months in top labs at partner universities, while seven-one-week-long secondements for experienced researchers to learn research management were offered.
  • Conference Participation: Thirteen researchers attended seven conferences, facilitating valuable exchanges of ideas and networking opportunities.
  • Joint Scientific Publications: SPRINGBOARD so far led to the publication of eight joint scientific papers with partner institutions, despite this not being explicitly outlined in the project proposal.
  • Career Development Events: A total of eight career development events were available for LIOS scientists, offering training in both scientific and soft skills.
  • Public Outreach and Popularization: The project also promoted science and research as a career through participation in three Researcher Night events, two Job Shadow days, and various Career Days events.

Conference Highlights from May 2, 2024:

  • Welcome Address: Prof. Raivis Žalubovskis, LIOS, opened the conference with a reflection on the project’s achievements.
  • Photodynamic Therapy Insights: Prof. Jean-Yves Winum from the University of Montpellier discussed carbonic anhydrase-targeted approaches.
  • Carbonic Anhydrases as Anti-Infectives: Dr. Fabrizio Carta from the University of Florence shared insights into this promising area of research.
  • Antimicrobial peptides and peptoid/peptide hybrids: Assoc. Prof. Henrik Franzyk from the University of Copenhagen discussed their structure-activity relationships
  • PhD Student and Post-Doc Session: A showcase of innovative research, including repurposing S1PR modulators as antibacterial agents and exploring structural bases for antibacterial drug discovery; investigation of antibiotic tolerance in Streptococcus pneumonia; battling the biofilm in ventilator-associated pneumonia; strategies to fight Mycobacterium abscessus infections; photo-catalyzed synthesis of monofluoromethyl-containing heteroarene; studies of antibacterial properties of natural products; engineering of  PETase enzymes; inhibition of the SARS-CoV-2 nsp16 by substrate-based dual site inhibitors.
  • Poster Session and Annual Springboard Meeting: Participants shared research findings and discussed future collaborations.

Conference Highlights from May 3, 2024:

  • Horizon Europe Updates: Jānis Ancāns, the National Contact Point for Horizon Europe, provided insights into upcoming opportunities.
  • Healthcare-Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance: Dr. Madara Tirzite from Riga Stradiņš University presented on this critical topic.
  • Preclinical Antibacterial Drug Discovery: Dr. Edgars Liepins from LIOS addressed the challenges in this field.
  • Diazaborines: Dr. Polina Ilina from the University of Helsinki discussed the antibacterial potential of these compounds.
  • Oxazolidinone-based carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: Dr. Simone Giovannuzzi from the University of Florence presented a promising strategy to discover antibiotics against gram-positive bacteria.
  • Microbial natural products: Dr. Chin-Soon Phan from LIOS discussed their antibacterial activities.
  • Human microbiome in health and disease: Dr. Ilze Elbere from the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre introduced current research trends in Latvia.

The SPRINGBOARD final conference set the stage for continued collaboration and innovation in antibacterial drug discovery.

For more information visit the project website https://springboard.osi.lv/

SPRINGBOARD project “Springboard for excellence in advanced development of antibacterials“ has received funding from the European Union’s Research and Innovation ProgrammeHorizon2020 under grant agreement No951883.