Science and industry work together on affordable alternatives to antibiotics

19 December 2017

Almost fifty scientists and twenty companies will work on the development of new antibiotics and alternatives to antibiotics, which must become available for the healthcare system for a fair and affordable price. The research is done in eight projects that have received the green light from NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES). Together with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), NWO invests almost 7 million euros in the research programme.

Antimicrobial resistance is a threat to public health worldwide. The need for new ways to combat bacterial infections is therefore great. Scientists and industry thus join forces within the Novel Antibacterial Compounds and Therapies Antagonizing Resistance (NACTAR) collaboration programme. The collaboration within the research projects must contribute to the utilisation of the research results within the healthcare system.

Antibiotics and alternatives

The research projects focus on new antibiotics in various ways. For example, one of the projects aims to develop a way to ‘reset’ human immune cells if they are affected by resistant bacteria. In another project, scientists are developing proteins that should make drug-resistant bacteria susceptible to antibiotics that until now only worked with other bacteria groups. In addition, a number of granted projects focus on the further development of promising substances that appear to be effective against resistant micro-organisms and can be an alternative to the current antibiotics. An overview of all eight granted project can be found below.


NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES) invests 2 million euros in the programme, of which 1 million euros is designated for research within the top sector Chemistry. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport invests nearly 5 million euros in the NACTAR programme. Of this amount, 1 million euros is appointed to applied clinical research. In order to bring together and stimulate excellent research in the Netherlands, VWS invests in research programs such as ZonMw Antibiotic resistance, NACTAR at NWO and the cooperation platform Netherlands Antibiotics Development Platform (NADP). This is in line with the priorities of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport: combating antibiotic resistance.

Industrial partners contribute over one million euros to NACTAR projects, financially or in sharing experience or equipment. The NADP will be involved closely in setting up further research and connecting industry. Within the eight granted research projects, twelve knowledge institutes are involved, as well as fifteen (pharmaceutical) companies and five health funds and foundations.

About NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences

NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES) connects people and resources to develop technology with economic value that contributes to solving societal challenges. This is done by funding excellent applied and engineering sciences, by bringing researchers and potential users together and by supervising project to optimise opportunities for transfer of knowledge.

About NWO

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research is one of the largest science-funding bodies in the Netherlands and ensures quality and innovation in science. Each year NWO invests about 800 million euros at more than 6000 research projects at universities and knowledge institutes. These concern both curiosity-driven research and research related to societal challenges. NWO selects and funds research proposals based on the advice from independent Dutch and international experts. NWO encourages national and international collaboration, manages national research institutes, invests in large-scale research facilities, and promotes knowledge utilisation.

Granted projects (in alphabetical order)

Boosting host immunity against Klebsiella pneumoniae via therapeutic antibodies
Main applicant: dr. S.H.M. Rooijakkers, University Medical Center Utrecht

Bringing mycobacterial secretion inhibitors to maturation
Main applicant: prof.dr. W. Bitter, VUmc

Chemical genetics to target intracellular drug-resistant bacteria

Main applicant: prof.dr. T.H.M. Ottenhoff, Leiden University Medical Center

In Pursuit of Next-Generation Lipopeptide Antibiotics

Main applicant: dr. M.H. Medema, Wageningen University & Research

MDR-Phage – Small molecules that promote bacterial killing in phagocytes
Main applicant: prof.dr. J.A.M. van der Palen, University of Twente

Next stage development of the novel synthetic antimicrobial peptide SAAP-148 (NESDAP)

Main applicant: dr. P.H. Nibbering, Leiden University Medical Center

Synergistic action of designed peptides and established Gram-positive antibiotics to fight Gram-negative ESKAPE organisms
Main applicant: prof.dr. O.P. Kuipers, University of Groningen

The lugdunomycins: a new class of polyketide antibiotics with unique chemical scaffold
Main applicant: prof.dr. G.P. van Wezel, Leiden University

Contact information

Poppy Savenije, spokesperson NWO, +31 (0)70 344 09 29 or (+31) 6 83 89 37 13,