Researchers at St Andrews University will spend seven years trying to find ways to identify weaknesses in the "armour" of bacteria which have become immune to traditional antibiotics.
The threat posed by drug-resistant bacteria such as TB, MRSA and C difficile has been identified as one of the major public health challenges facing the world.
The UK's Chief Medical Officer recently called for increased funding for this type of research, highlighting the danger of bacterial disease to the population.
The Scottish team's work is being made possible thanks to a £2 million grant from Wellcome Trust.
Professor James Naismith, who is leading the project at the university's Biological Sciences Research Centre, said: "Bacteria are fantastic chemists, but humans are, by contrast, lazy.
"Yet this activity is also their weakness, because they do so much chemistry that we do not. Thus if we can stop their chemistry it would kill them, but since we do not do it, it should not affect us. Most antibiotics work on this simple principle; however, we urgently need to do the research to find new antibiotics for 20 years' time."