IMB researcher fights TB with NHMRC funding

18 Dec 2012

Professor Matt Cooper from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) has been awarded $513,630 by the National Health and Medical Research Council to develop treatments for superbug strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to current drugs.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major global public health issue, affecting every country in the world and causing approximately 2 million deaths per annum.

Professor Cooper, Dr Nick West from UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences and IMB researchers Dr Tommy Karoli and Dr Johannes Zuegg will use the NHMRC funding to develop new drug candidates to replace or improve current TB treatments, which consist of four drugs that must be taken for six to nine months to be effective.

“The current treatment for TB is a prolonged process, meaning many patients don’t finish the course of medicine,” Professor Cooper said.

“This has lead to bacteria developing resistance to multiple TB drugs and hence becoming multi-drug resistant or extensively drug-resistant.

“New TB drugs are needed to ensure we can treat strains of TB that have become resistant to existing drugs, as well as potentially reduce the treatment time for standard TB.

“Reducing drug treatment time will help us improve patient cure rates, contain TB’s spread and potentially save millions of lives.

The World Health Organisation estimates one in three people is exposed to TB, which is caused by the bacterial species Mycobacterium tuberculosis and becomes active when a person’s immune system is compromised, as happens in HIV/AIDS patients.

Australia’s Torres Strait Islands, which border Papua New Guinea, have been declared a multi-drug resistant TB hot spot, along with PNG, which will affect the long-term control of TB in Australia.

Already, the incidence of TB in the indigenous population of Australia is 10 times that of the population as a whole.

For more information, or to donate to Professor Cooper’s lab, please call 07 3346 2132 or email

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology.

Media contact:

Bronwyn Adams, IMB Communications Officer – 0418 575 247 or 07 3346 2134