Skip navigation

How do we fight disease in a world where bacteria resist antibiotics?

Since Alexander Fleming first discovered antibiotics in 1928 they have become the principal way to treat diseases caused by bacteria globally. But extensive overuse and misuse of antibiotics in recent years has led to a rise in antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ which can no longer be treated.

Now cited as one of the biggest threats to public health worldwide and a possible Armageddon-like ‘end to modern medicine’, the race is on to find new treatments to replace antibiotics. Our cutting-edge research explores fresh ways to fight disease. Could alternative bio-based products be the answer? We’re urging interested experts to join our investigations. 

Bioeconomy: Sustaining our planet and economy through bio-based solutions.

As we continue to plunder the earth’s natural resources, bio-based products and processes take on an even greater significance. We need to find economic, ‘greener’ alternatives to the way we live.

Bio-economy seeks to find sustainable and resource-efficient solutions to the major challenges we face today in public health, food, chemicals, materials, energy production and environmental protection.

Northumbria has a strong pedigree for research in this area and we’re exploring wide ranging solutions to replace more toxic methods of chemical production with ‘green chemistry’, through to improving food quality with bio-refineries.

Everything we do is aimed at developing solutions useful to the economy. In recent years, we have attracted significant grants from Research Councils UK and have excellent links with a range of industrial partners, from Unilever to GlaxoSmithKline, and many other companies in the food, biotech, pharmaceutical and consumer goods industries. We’re growing our team of researchers at the cutting edge of this practice.



Experts agree one of the biggest threats facing humanity today is the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s a ticking time bomb. And there’s a real danger we could return to a world where infectious diseases kill and surgery becomes extremely dangerous. Where drugs such as those for treating cancer become impotent.

Finding an alternative to traditional antibiotics has never been more critical. But after almost 90 years of using antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, how do you fight disease without them when there’s no credible alternative?

It’s certainly a major challenge. One compounded by a chronic lack of investment. One problem that needs a radical approach.

With our strong track record in converting research into a workable solution, it’s a challenge we’re embracing.

Our cutting-edge bioeconomic research team is exploring new ways to treat diseases caused by bacteria. Our world-class researchers are working with some of the leading players in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries to look at fresh and innovative replacements for antibiotics.

Using our extensive expertise, we are examining how bio-based products and processes could provide a sustainable and resource-efficient solution to this global problem.

In a world where antibiotics can no longer be relied on we need solutions we can be sure of.

What do you think? Share your views using #ChangingChallengingWorld

Gary Black

Personal Chair in Protein Biochemistry

Department: Applied Sciences

I moved to Northumbria University in 2000 to take up the post of Reader and I obtained my Personal Chair in 2006.

I studied for my BSc in Applied Biology (awarded by CNAA in 1988) at Sunderland Polytechnic, which included a sandwich placement at the Public Health Laboratory Service, Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research, Porton Down, Salisbury.

I stayed on at Sunderland Polytechnic to study my PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (awarded by CNAA in 1992) under the supervision of Dr Catherine O'Reilly. I then moved to Newcastle University as a Post-doctoral Research Associate and worked in the research group of Prof. Harry Gilbert for 4 years, returning to Sunderland University in 1996 as a Lecturer and moving to Northumbria 17 years ago.

Get in touch: / 0191 227 3550



Join the Conversation


Back to top