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Gerard Wright

Gerard D. Wright

Molecular Studies of Antibiotics
Canada Research Chair

Faculty of Health Sciences

Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Science


Research Involves

Antibiotic resistance; chemically synthesizing antibiotics.

Chair Overview

Every day, pathogenic bacteria are being implicated in the cause of more diseases. Legionnaire’s and Lyme’s. Gastric ulcers and hardening of the arteries. The list of infections associated with serious diseases like these is growing.

In this environment, effective drugs are critical to do battle. But as the use of antibiotics becomes more widespread, so too does the growth of antibiotic resistance. It’s the bugs against the drugs. And the bugs look like they’re winning.

Gerard Wright’s research concentrates on understanding the mechanisms that promote antibiotic resistance and the reasons micro-organisms become resistant. He is particularly interested in the enzymes that alter or destroy antibiotics. By identifying resistance genes, expressing and purifying enzymes, and understanding their role in the process of antibiotic resistance, Wright hopes to gather data to help reverse this resistance and develop new drugs.

To study existing antibiotics and why organisms balk at them, researchers need to synthesize them in a lab. But many of these antibiotics can’t be chemically synthesized cost-effectively in large-enough quantities to allow chemists to modify them. Wright is working on understanding new ways to synthesize particularly critical groups of antibiotics, some of them the last effective treatments for emerging superbugs.

The ultimate goal of this research is the development of new antibiotics. To do that, researchers have to understand the way they currently combat infection, and the body’s molecular processes. Wright and his colleagues are using chemistry and biochemistry to examine the use of new agents in the war against infection. One such possibility is the use of amino acids as an antidote to fungal pathogens-another living micro-organism that causes both diseases in people, and major crop losses from infection.

The chair Wright will hold at McMaster will contribute to the creation of the critical mass necessary to result in long-awaited breakthroughs in the fight to combat antibiotic resistance. His discoveries will have practical implications for both human health and agricultural practices.