The discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Sir Alexander Fleming started the antibiotic revolution, which tremendously impacted human life by revolutionizing the treatment of infectious diseases worldwide. Before this revolution, the average life expectancy at birth was 46 years, even in the industrialized world. 50 years later, it was 72 years. This spectacular increase cannot only be attributed to antibiotics, but they played a large part in it. However, the battle against bacteria is far from over: antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise and threaten modern medicine by eroding the efficacy of our antibiotic arsenal. According to the WHO, the rise of multidrug-resistant bacteria “is putting at risk the ability to treat common infections in the community and hospitals. Without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill. (…)”. It is therefore urgent to find novel therapies and strategies against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a challenge that requires a deep understanding of bacterial biology.
Jean-Francois Collet and his team are contributing to the global effort to discover new antibacterial approaches by identifying novel protein machineries that play essential roles in bacterial physiology. Their primary objective is to gain a deeper understanding of how bacteria grow, and survive in constantly changing environments, with the ultimate goal of devising more effective methods to combat them.Specifically, the Collet lab focuses on investigating how bacteria protect and maintain their cell envelope. Given the vital role the cell envelope plays in bacterial viability, proteins involved in its biogenesis are attractive targets for the development of new antibiotics.Jean-François Collet and his team are therefore motivated to expand our fundamental understanding of the bacterial cell envelope. Additionally, they investigate antioxidant defense mechanisms that protect bacteria from reactive oxygen species, which can damage cellular components, including DNA, lipids, and proteins, ultimately leading to cell death.