The next medical breakthrough in drug-resistant diseases could be coming from college students.
“There’s a real need,” said Brian Merkel, a professor of biology at University of Wisconsin Green Bay. “This is only going to intensify, this pressure to find new antibiotics because, quite simply, there’s infections for which nothing on the shelf works anymore.”
The race is on for the Tiny Earth initiative–which uses a network of college students from 15 countries and 45 states to find new life-saving antibiotics.
“It speaks to partnerships and community and the good things that happen when we all work together for the common good,” he said.
700,000 people die every year from drug-resistant diseases and these students are ready for the challenge.
“I’ve taken one or two labs in here,” said Morgan Courier, a student at UWGB.
They will be doing original research that could end up saving lives.
“It’s super exciting,” she said. “I want to go to medical school after college and being able to be involved in such a big way for just one of my classes is just really cool to me.”
And getting people pumped for science is part of the program–with several high schools chipping in.
“They can work with us in the lab and see what it’s like in a college setting to really dive into problems like this,” said Courier.
It’s a big enough driver, that the Packers donated a soil sample from one of the team’s practice fields.
“We thought, ‘Oh, why not,’ you know? If that gets more people interested in the program, to spread the scope of it, and the impact–that would be a great thing to do,” said Aaron Popkey, director of public affairs for the Packers.
Soil contains a richness of microbes, which are key ingredients for finding cures.
“It really shows how special Green Bay is and the fact that the Packers are willing to participate in this just shows how great Green Bay is and how special it is to be a part of it,” said Courier.
All of the student research will be presented at Lambeau Field on December 6th.