In the Competition of basic research projects by the Russian Science Foundation, two projects of the Laboratory of Molecular Epidemiology and Evolutionary Genetics of the St. Petersburg Pasteur Institute were supported: (1) “The unevenness of the evolutionary-epidemic trajectory of the paradoxical ancient subtype of the East Asian lineage of Mycobacterium tuberculosis: stochastic fluctuations or causative correlations?” (Project leader –Igor Mokrousov, PhD, DSc) and (2) “Development of new efficient compounds against drug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis taking into account population structure of the pathogen" (Project leader - Anna Vyazovaya, PhD).
St. Petersburg Pasteur Institute is the core organization in both projects. At the same time, both projects demonstrate importance of collaboration in the modern scientific research. In particular, team members represent research centers in St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk and Omsk. The key international collaborators in the second project are Bulgarian researchers from Institute of Organic Chemistry (Dr. Georgi Dobrikov) and The Stephan Angeloff Institute of Microbiology (Dr. Violeta Valcheva).
The first, “evolutionary” project is multidisciplinary, at the intersection of population and system biology, genomic bioinformatics, fundamental and personalized medicine. The subject of the study will be unusual clonal clusters of the important microorganism Mycobacterium tuberculosis with a paradoxical combination of evolutionary, epidemiological and phylogeographic features. They belong to the East Asian phylogenetic lineage, are present in Japan and Korea, until recently they were low prevalent in most regions of Russia, nevertheless, a recent increase in their circulation is observed in western and eastern Siberia. Focused on the specific potentially pandemic genovariant within the M. tuberculosis Beijing genetic family, the molecular and in vivo study will help come closer to an understanding of more general, common features behind the emergence of resistant clusters, the driving forces for their spread in the world, especially in vulnerable populations and risk groups. The availability of a wide network of relevant international collaborators (Japan, China, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands/ECDC, Albania, Greece) will permit to achieve a broad spatial genogeographic perspective.
The major objective of the second, “chemical” project is development and implementation of new anti-TB compounds, efficient, non-toxic and active against drug-resistant strains. Testing of newly designed anti-TB compounds with reference strains is a first step but not sufficient. It is important to take into consideration the real clinical strains circulating in the world and especially in high burden countries. This multidisciplinary project with both basic and applied objectives/deliverables will be performed by research group (including ongoing collaborations) with internationally recognized expertise in clinical microbiology, molecular and evolutionary genetics, genome bioinformatics, medicinal chemistry and drug design, with special focus on Tuberculosis (TB). Major outcome of the whole project will be a selection of several compounds of different chemical structure with anti-Tuberculosis activity proven efficient against drug-resistant and genetically diverse Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains circulating in high TB-burden country, Russia.
Note. More than 3.6 thousand applications were submitted for the Russian Science Foundation competition "Fundamental research and exploratory research by individual scientific groups". Based on the selection results, it was decided to support 681 projects. The size of each grant will be from 4 to 6 million rubles annually. Projects will be implemented in 2019-2021.
Announcement at the RSF website (in Russian): http://xn--m1afn.xn--p1ai/ru/node/opredeleny-pobediteli-konkursov-na-prodlenie-sroka-realizatsii-proektov-2016-goda-i-konkursa-dlya-ot
List of all supported projects (in Russian): http://rscf.ru/upload/iblock/bee/bee17fb9683308791e2d0998c8611a16.pdf