Cultures & Codes

A painting depicting antibiotic research and development and upscaling. A woman is screening various compounds for antibacterial inhibition. She is overlooked by a portrait of Alexander Fleming. In front of her, through a glass window, a man in white clothes is inspecting a row of gleaming deep fermentation vats used for mass production.

The Era of Antibiotics, painted by Robert A. Thom for Parke, Davis & Co. APhA Foundation.

“Cultures & Codes” is part of an international research consortium on the history of the dry antibiotic pipeline (2021-2025). Supported by the Norwegian Research Council, research clusters in Oslo, Copenhagen, Strasburg, Madrid, and Dublin will explore how the antibiotic pipeline ran dry from the 1970s onwards. In addition to critically examining existing narratives of the dry antibiotic pipeline, researchers will focus on how new genomic and IT technologies, business models, and social and gender dimensions of microbiological research impacted antibiotic development.

At UCD, the “Cultures & Codes” cluster employs a mix of historical, ethnographic, and oral history approaches to understand how: (a) post-war ties between industry, science, and public health changed in the face of new biotech and venture capital actors employing targeted, sequence-based analysis and automated screening; (b) how existing infrastructures like culture collections and laboratory networks evolved in the face of privatisation, patenting reforms, and new genomic and computerised technologies.

Mirza Portillo Alas is the PhD researcher on this project. 

You can find a list of all our project-related outputs here: