Crowdsourcing superbug solutions


A global shout-out has uncovered hundreds of thousands of antibiotic leads.

Scientists from IMB have turned to crowdsourcing to help solve the superbug challenge, tapping into researchers the world over to discover the next generation of antibiotics through CO-ADD, the Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery.

This not-for-profit initiative, founded by Professor Matt Cooper and Associate Professor Mark Blaskovich in 2015 in partnership with the Wellcome Trust and other groups, screens compounds for antimicrobial activity, free of charge to academic researchers globally.

There are currently 57 million compounds registered in the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registry whose chemical properties remain unknown, leaving a plethora of potential antibiotics to be discovered.

Testing potential antibiotics from all over the world

“It is still not clear how to design a better antibiotic, and understanding the desirable chemical properties would help,” Dr Blaskovich said.

“We are now applying artificial intelligence methods to study a unique dataset of compounds crowdsourced from academic groups from all around the world to develop predictive models for antibacterial activity and membrane penetration.

“We will then apply these models to design new antibiotics, which will be synthesised and tested for antimicrobial activity.”

After a global shout-out, CO-ADD has screened over 300,000 unique compounds sent in from researchers in 45 countries – a fantastic opportunity to investigate what this mysterious reservoir of chemical compounds can offer in the world’s race to defeat superbugs.

The CO-ADD team is now up for a national award, having been shortlisted for the 2022 Eureka Prize for Infectious Disease Research. 


Number of unique compounds
received by CO-ADD for screening for
antimicrobial activity


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