Changing the game for bacterial resistance

Brandon Banaschewski

By Angela McInnes, BA'15

In the ongoing battle against multi-drug resistant bacteria, Brandon Banaschewski, BMSc’12, PhD Candidate, is dedicated to fortifying frontline defenses.

By researching the effects of an antimicrobial cathelicidin peptide, he’s determined to help develop stronger therapeutic treatments for respiratory diseases like cystic fibrosis.

“We’ve shown that this peptide is really potent. It kills a wide variety of bacteria in multiple mechanisms, so it’s very hard for bacteria to actually develop resistance,” said Banaschewski.

Having completed an honors specialization in physiology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry before advancing to the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology’s PhD program, the tenacious researcher hopes to promote a therapy that will abate potentially fatal lung infections.

Mucus plugging often blocks airflow and impedes aerosols from reaching bacteria that exists on the periphery of the lungs. To circumvent this, Banaschewski is investigating the mixing of antimicrobial peptides with surfactant.

“Surfactant can spread through all areas of the lung, including the collapsed and damaged regions where the bacteria are actually harboured, and kill it there,” explained Banaschewski. “We’re in the infancy stages of development, but since we can look at things like cystic fibrosis, bacterial pneumonia and ventilator associated pneumonia where we can give surfactant fairly easily and then actually help clear up this infection, I think we have a really good shot.”

Banaschewski made the decision to complete his undergraduate degree in medical sciences at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. A positive lab experience in his fourth year made him realize that the School would be the ideal setting for him to continue his research.

“My supervisors, Ruud Veldhuizen, PhD, and Drs. Cory Yamashita and Jim Lewis, are the reason I came back to complete a master’s degree,” Banaschewski said. “They were very experienced guides who helped me learn from whatever mistakes I made along the way. I think that really set me up well for what I can do in the future.”

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s supportive atmosphere meshed well with Banaschewski’s love of team work. He played on the Western Mustangs baseball team throughout his undergraduate degree, and in the past he coached the London Badgers youth league. As a PhD Candidate, he continues to play in a London men’s league.

Banaschewski also helps to provide business education to his peers as part of the executive committee for the Graduate Management Consulting Association — a student society representing graduate students who wish to pursue a future career in management consulting.

Despite facing the typical drawbacks attached to being in the early stages of research, Banaschewski believes in his work’s potential impact.

“I’d love to carry this on to clinical trials,” he said. “I really have a passion for it because it is research that I can see working down the road.”