Bulitta Research Lab

Combating bacterial ‘superbugs’ via latest experimental and computational approaches

Bacterial ‘superbugs’ which are resistant to most or all antibiotics present one of the three most serious threats to human health in the US and worldwide. This has been highlighted by the World Health Organization, the US President’s Office, the European Union, and numerous national and international organizations. If bacterial resistance to antibiotics is not tackled successfully, a tremendous financial loss (>$1 trillion till 2050), widespread human suffering and an increased mortality from bacterial infections have all been predicted. Without effective antibiotic therapy, care of premature neonates, transplants, cancer chemotherapy and many other achievements of modern medicine will no longer be possible without significant risk. Therefore, society is on a path of reverting back to the pre-antibiotic era.

To combat this substantial global health crisis, the dynamic antimicrobial research team at Lake Nona is developing innovative antibiotic combination therapies which can successfully treat infections by these ‘superbugs’. This team is headed by Dr. Jürgen Bulitta who is an internationally recognized expert in antimicrobial pharmacology, latest in vitro infection models, and translational mechanistic modeling. His team is greatly enhanced by the in-depth expertise in molecular and clinical microbiology by Dr. Bartolome Moya as well as by multiple fruitful collaborations with the UF Institute for Therapeutic Innovation located in the same building at Lake Nona.

Drs. Bulitta and Moya have a long-standing interest in beta-lactam antibiotics which are the largest and most commonly used group of antibiotics. These drugs can be used safely in patients of all ages. However, there are substantial gaps in our understanding of how beta-lactam antibiotics can be used optimally which give rise to innovation combination therapies to combat ‘superbugs.’ This particularly applies to the use of two beta-lactams simultaneously. Such combinations can inactivate an optimal set of different target receptors (i.e. different penicillin-binding proteins). Additionally, our team is developing novel approaches of how to enhance the penetration of antibiotics to their bacterial target sites. This research involves the development of innovative combination therapies which include beta-lactam, aminoglycoside, polymyxin and other antibiotics, as well as a beta-lactamase inhibitor.

The second research stream by Dr. Bulitta’s group focuses on human pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and toxicodynamics. This includes advanced models of oral and inhaled drug absorption and greatly benefits from Dr. Yuanyuan Jiao’s expertise in clinical pharmacy. The latter research includes a fruitful collaboration with Dr. Guenther Hochhaus (COP, UF) in a stream of FDA-funded clinical studies. The latter assess important properties of inhaled corticosteroid formulations. This research is highly important for the development of the much-needed generic formulations for inhaled drugs.

Dr. Bulitta is continuously developing a free, open-source facilitator tool (SADAPT-TRAN) which greatly supports Quantitative and Systems Pharmacology (QSP) modeling in the S-ADAPT software package. This tool greatly enhances the capabilities and efficiency of researchers worldwide to perform translational, mechanistic modeling and optimally dose patients. These approaches and concepts are taught in Dr. Bulitta’s new course on “Translational Clinical Pharmacology” (PHA6133).

Ongoing Projects

Translational antimicrobial pharmacology

NIH/NIAID R01 AI136803 Bulitta JB (PI) Role: PI
Combating resistant superbugs by understanding the molecular determinants of target site penetration and binding

NIH/NIAID R01 AI130185 Bulitta JB (PI) Role: PI
Next-generation combination dosing strategies to combat resistant Acinetobacter baumannii

FDA HHSF223201710199C Luna BM (PI) Role: Subaward-PI
A Preclinical Mouse Model of Acinetobacter baumannii Infection For Antibacterial Development

NIH/NIAID R01 AI111990 Tsuji B / Li J (PD/PI) Role: Co-I
Novel PK/PD Strategies for Polymyxin Combinations against Gram-negative Superbugs

NHMRC APP1101553 Project Landersdorfer CB (PI) Role: Co-I
Targeting hypermutable ‘superbugs’ in chronic respiratory infections by optimised antibiotic combination dosage regimens

Inhaled corticosteroids

FDA U01 FD004943 Hochhaus G (PI) Role: Co-PI
Comprehensive Evaluation of Formulation Effects on Metered Dose Inhaler Performance, Food and Drug Administration

FDA HHSF223201310220C Hochhaus G / Bulitta J (PD/PI) Role: PD/PI
Study to investigate the sensitivity of pharmacokinetics in detecting differences in physicochemical properties of the active in suspension nasal products for local action

Completed Projects

FDA HHSF223201610099C Bulitta JB (PI) Role: PI
Pharmacokinetic Comparison of Locally Acting Orally Inhaled Drug Products

State of Florida 7ZK30 Brown AN (PI) Role: Co-I
Identification of antiviral therapies for the treatment of Zika virus using existing drugs

Current Members

Jürgen Bulitta, Ph.D.
Antimicrobial Pharmacology, Chemistry
Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics, Preeminence Position

Dhruvitkumar S. Sutaria, Ph.D.
Molecular Pharmacology
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Yuanyuan Jiao, Ph.D.
Clinical Pharmacist, QSP Modelling
Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate
Nirav Shah, Ph.D.
Advanced Imaging
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Alaa Ropy Sayed, Ph.D.
Molecular Biology
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Yinzhi Lang, Ph.D.
Bioanalytics, Mass Spectrometry, Glycoproteomics
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Xun Tao, MSc
Pharmaceutics, Bioanalytics, QSP Modelling
Ph.D. Student
Elena Shin, MSc
Pharmaceutics, Pharmacokinetics
Ph.D. Student
Brandon Klee, PharmD
Ph.D. Student
Carolin Werkman, MSc
Ph.D. Student
JieqiangZhou, BSc
Bioanalytics, Proteomics, Metabolomics
Senior Bioanalyst
Stefanie Drescher
Pharmacist, QSP Modelling
Ph.D. Student
Inhaled corticosteroid program with Dr. Hochhaus
Keisha Cadet, A.S.
Microbiology, Biotech, PK/PD
Research Technician
Ann Ross, MHA
Research Coordinator  
Rossie Jimenez, A.S.
Biotechnology, PK/PD
Research Technician

Past Members

Bartolomé Moyá Cañellas, Ph.D.
Molecular Biology, Omics
Assistant Professor (tenure track)
Tae Hwan Kim, Ph.D.
Current Position: Assistant Professor at the College of Pharmacy, Daegu Catholic University, Korea
Mong-Jen Chen, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor
Inhaled corticosteroid program with Dr. Hochhaus
Hongmei Xu, Ph.D.
Current Position: Director, Quantitative Clinical Pharmacology, AstraZeneca
Rajbharan Yadav, Ph.D.Current Position: Scientist, Translational PK/PD, Genentech, Inc.
Formerly Ph.D. student in Australia
  Nrec Dedaj
Pharm.D. Research Intern
Kristen Prince
Pharm.D. Research Intern
  Priscell Villegas
Pharm.D. Research Intern
Former Pharm.D. Research Interns
Mr. Andrew Zhao-Hui Li
Ms. Nurhayati Ahmad Noorzi
Ms. Bonnie Fung
Ms. Cecilia Xu
Mr. Chanh Tin Michael Nguyen
Mr. Tuck Wong
Ms. Sally Hoang
Ms. Lina Ly
Ms. Sin Loo Wang
Ms. Yi-Chu (Emelie) Wang
Ms. Jinq Ru Lim
Ms. Yen Mei Chuah
Mr. Dung Ngo  
Former Co-Mentors
Mr. Johannes Gareis
Mr. Sven Hüttner
Mr. Timothy Armstrong
Ms. Verena Jakob
Mr. Michael Rodamer  
Former Ph.D. Students
Dr. Neang Sok Ly
Dr. Soon-Ee Cheah
Ms. Vanessa Rees
Dr. Gemma Ryan
Dr. Lisa Black
Dr. Tasnuva Tamanna  
Former Research Assistants / Technicians
Ms. Rebecca E. D’Hondt
Ms. Holland DeFiglio
Ms. Jessica Shan
Ms. Yen Mei Chuah
Ms. Kate Rogers
Ms. Lina Ly
Ms. Preeti Yadav
Ms. Lijie Zhang  
Former Research Interns
Mr. Markus T. Meyer
Ms. Yuling Huang
Ms. Phyllis Phua
Ms. Nicolin A. Wanigaratne
Mr. Gordon Shing Yip Lee
Ms. Emelie Olsson
Ms. Annette Dahlberg
Ms. Neang Sok Ly
Ms. Louisa K. M. Schlaak
Mr. Brandon O Klee
Ms. Kirsten Prince
Mr. Alex Duarte
Mr. Benedikt C. Huck
Mr. Nils Krumm
Ms. Madeline Behr  
Mr. Kajetan Nierychlewski
Ms. Ann-Christin Pape