Mat Upton Pioneers hero Home of marine

Mat, Professor in Medical Microbiology at the Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research and the lead for the Antibiotic Resistant Pathogens Research Group, is engaged in ground-breaking research to develop a potent first in class antibiotic for drug resistant infections. 

The global antibiotic resistance threat

Professor Upton and his team in the Antibiotic Resistant Pathogens Research Group are currently working on what has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the major threats to human health and modern medicine - antibiotic resistance. The WHO and international governments have stated that urgent measures are needed to avert the crisis we face. No new class of antibiotic has been introduced into clinical use for nearly 30 years. The team's programme of drug discovery aims to help meet this need for new antibiotics. 

Deep sea sponges

Mat's research has taken him to the deep sea in a powerful collaboration with Kerry Howell of the . By combining their expertise, Mat and Kerry aim to identify and develop potential new antimicrobials produced in the microbiome of sponges that live deep beneath the ocean surface. Together, they will develop new methods of microbial cultivation, apply them to unique samples from a source rich in bioactive molecules, and identify urgently-needed new antimicrobials.


Mat is also chief scientific officer of , a University spin-out company established to help tackle the problem of drug resistant infections by developing new antibiotics and bringing them to market. The company is aiming to meet a growing need for new antibiotics as harmful microbes become increasingly drug resistant. The company has recently won a £1.2 million contract from the Department for Health and Social Care to accelerate development and scale up its lead antibiotic candidate to tackle antimicrobial resistant MRSA and related superbugs.

The person behind the pioneer

We are rapidly running out of options to treat the ever more prevalent ‘resistant’ bacteria. For so long we have taken them for granted. Read more about Professor Mat Upton

We believe that deep-sea sponges contain diverse populations of new cultivable and non-cultivable bacteria. These represent a substantial uncharacterised and untapped source of bioactive molecules which could help meet the urgent need for new antimicrobials and have other health benefit applications.

Professor Mat Upton

Home of marine

Our marine and maritime excellence in world-leading research informs policy agendas for the sustainable management of ocean resources. Our work has significantly improved how to forecast extreme coastal events and their impact on communities. We were the first to study the ecological effects of ocean acidification, and now lead the UK agenda for offshore renewable energy. On national and international levels, we have influenced key policies, conservation practices, responses to climate change, public perception of marine issues, and are defining the pathways toward tangible solutions.
The culture of close collaboration across the city with researchers, policymakers, and local businesses has resulted in Plymouth’s nomination for the UK’s first National Marine Park – an initiative underpinned by research at the University.
Underwater bubbles