Universiteit Leiden

"Leiden University was founded in 1575 and is one of Europe’s foremost research universities."

"Its prominent position affords our graduates an advantage when they apply for scientific positions outside the academic world. The university has about 23,000 students from 110 countries and 5,500 personnel, including Leiden University Medical Centre staff. Leiden University carries out research in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences and offers 46 Bachelor’s degree courses and 72 mostly English-language Master’s degree courses in these disciplines."

Antibiotics Wanted!

"Antibiotics Wanted! is a project launched by Molecular Biology staff and students at the Leiden Institute of Biology under the direction of Prof. Gilles van Wezel and Dr Dennis Claessen in collaboration with the Medical Microbiology department of the Rotterdam Erasmus Medical Centre and Dr Willem van Wamel. The project aims to make the world of bacteria accessible, paying particular attention to antibiotics. Where do they come from, how do bacteria become resistant and what can we do to tackle the problem of multi-resistance in the future?

Antibiotics Wanted! won the Annual Academic Award in 2011. The award is worth 100,000 euros and was set up by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the VPRO Dutch public service broadcaster and the NRC Dutch national newspaper and media network. The prize is awarded to the team which best interprets top scholarship for the general public. The collaboration between Micropia and the Antibiotics Wanted! team resulted in the ‘Medicines from the ground’ display which was financed by the Annual Academic Award prize money.

The Leiden Molecular Biology group’s scientific research is directed towards actinomycetes, exquisite fungus-like bacteria which together produce about two-thirds of all known antibiotics and other natural substances which are used as medicines for diseases including cancer. Many people associate bacteria with illness, decay and the necessity of going to the dentist for fillings. However, the overwhelming majority of bacteria are harmless and are often bewitchingly beautiful. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria which cause disease, such as MRSA and Klebsiella, have been in the news so much that they have become household names.

We developed a teaching package for secondary schools aimed at disseminating information and familiarising school students with the wonderful world of microbiology. The package involves the students taking samples of earth and lets them isolate actinomycetes and observe that they produce antibiotics. So the aim of Antibiotics Wanted! goes hand in hand with that of Micropia. We also have had a long-running exhibition on antibiotic resistance in Leiden’s Boerhaave Museum."