Evolution of Drug Resistance

Coordinators: Richard Neher, Ville Mustonen, Daniel Weinreich

Scientific Advisors: Susan Fitzpatrick, Franziska Michor

Infectious diseases used to be a major cause of mortality until effective and cheap antibiotics were discovered. But the continued use of antibiotics has now given rise to strains of pathogens that are resistant against one or several antibiotics. Resistant strains are spreading rapidly, particularly in hospitals, and already limit treatment options, or worse, make infections untreatable. Drug resistance emerges in essentially all infectious diseases. Similarly, cancers often evolve to become resistant to chemotherapy.

In order to understand the circumstances under which resistance evolves and how it spreads, this program will bring together researchers from the medical, biological, and physical sciences. We believe that the fight against resistance requires a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance, the evolutionary dynamics through which the necessary genes and mutations are acquired, and the epidemiological parameters that facilitate spread. In the past, the KITP has hosted several very successful programs on evolution. This program will focus on one of the most rapid and consequential evolution processes here and now, and will include experts from the experimental and clinical communities.

The program will consist of four units, on bacterial and viral drug resistance, resistance in parasites such as malaria, and finally resistance in cancer. The first five weeks (bacterial and viral drug resistance evolution) will run concurrently with the Advanced Summer Research Course on Microbial Physiology and Experimental Evolution. This course will include state-of-the-art experiments and will take place in the laboratory next door to KITP. It will be fully integrated with the KITP program and provide program participants with an opportunity to engage, along with course students and instructors, with the design and analysis of quantitative experiments.

This program is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant no. 2919 and National Institutes of Health grant no. R25 GM067110