Novel approaches to antibiotic discovery

Most antibiotics in current use are derived from soil bacteria (mostly actinomycetes), but continued screening of these organisms has failed to generate a sustainable pipeline of novel drug candidates. However, genome sequencing has revealed that actinomycetes have the potential to make many more antibiotics (perhaps ten-fold) than previously thought. By combining next-generation sequencing (NGS) with bioinformatic analysis (“genome mining”), Norwich Research Park scientists are identifying gene clusters that make novel bioactives. They are also prospecting for new pathways and chemistries by screening actinomycetes and other bacteria from ecological niches that have not been intensively scrutinised (e.g. from marine and desert environments, bacterial symbionts). An example of these new approaches is the investigation of leaf-cutter ants from the tropics as a source of exciting new antibiotics. These are being identified through a collaboration between Matt Hutchings’ group at the University of East Anglia and Barrie Wilkinson’s at the John Innes Centre.


Image: Matt Hutchings (University of East Anglia) NRP Image Library 104


Earlham institute
Quadram Institute Bioscience
John Innes Centre
The Sainsbury Laboratory
University of East Anglia

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