Project description

delnam.pngThe H2020-WIDESPREAD Twinning project DelNAM aims at Strengthening the Research Area of Delivery of Nucleic Acid Mimics (NAMS) into bacteria to fight the antibiotic crisis. DelNAM will allow the development of a consolidated strategic research approach and a set of guidelines for exploitation and commercialization of the results that will have a strong regional, national and European impact. The proposal integrates synergies in complementary fields of research that include nanotechnology, synthetic chemistry, microbiology and bioprocess modelling, aiming to obtain scientific breakthroughs that can improve the global health and economy. The project is coordinated by prof. Nuno Azevedo (Faculty of Engineering, University of Porto) and runs from August 2018 till July 2021.

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics poses a threat to the global public health, being already responsible for thousands of annual deaths globally and expected to kill more than cancer by 2050 if no solution is encountered. The development of new resistance-free antibiotics has proven to be a challenge for pharmaceutical companies due to the rapid acquisition of resistance by bacteria. Nucleic Acid Mimics (NAMs) may be the answer to this problem, since they can be designed to recognize and block key bacterial genes. Therefore, depending on the target genes, NAMs can be used to kill bacteria or to restore bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics. This novel strategy provides a potentially endless source of active antibacterials; even if the bacteria develops resistance the NAMs can be easily redesigned to become effective again. Differently to unmodified DNA and RNA oligonucleotides, NAMs such as Locked Nucleic Acid (LNA) are resistant to degradation and present improved affinity towards the bacterial targets, provided they can reach their target in the bacterial cytosol. The penetration of NAMs is, however, limited by the bacterial envelope composed of several stringent layers that surround the bacterial cytosol. As a result, delivery strategies are needed to ensure that NAMs cross the bacterial envelope. Nanoparticles have been widely investigated for drug delivery in animal cells, but only recently started to be explored for bacteria. The DelNAM project aims to develop an innovative solution to fight and solve the crisis of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, through the delivery of NAMs into bacteria. Suitable carriers will be developed for the transport of NAMs and their efficacy studied and modelled, according to the type of NAM, carrier, bacteria and site of infection.


These are the objectives of DelNAM:

  • Promote a coordinated and consolidated strategy of scientific excellence in the field of NAMs amongst the partners of the project.
  • Train Portuguese institution research staff in emergent technologies and interface science.
  • Educate students to better disseminate and explore knowledge within the field.
  • Promote public awareness concerning the problem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics and how it treats global health.

Role of Ghent University

Ghent University will provide decisive expertise on the design of delivery systems for nucleic acids and their behavior in native biological fluids.




Prof. Stefaan De Smedt
Department of Pharmaceutics
Phone number: +32 9 264 8076