Antibiotic resistance is depleting our arsenal against deadly diseases and infections, such as tuberculosis and Staph infections, but recent research shows promise to speed up the drug discovery process.
In a study reported in ACS Chemical Biology, University of Illinois researchers developed a new technique to quickly uncover novel, medically relevant products produced by bacteria.
Past techniques involved screening more than 10,000 samples to find a novel product, said principal investigator Doug Mitchell, assistant professor of chemistry and Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) member. But by using this new technique, Mitchell's lab discovered a novel product after screening just a few dozen soil bacteria.
Soil bacteria, which naturally produce antibiotics to fend off competitors, are the most significant source of antibiotic and anticancer drugs. Indeed, over the past 30 years, natural products or simple derivatives thereof account for 50 and 75 percent of all FDA-approved anticancer and antibiotic drugs, respectively.
"Many companies have stopped working on natural product discovery because it is difficult and not as profitable as other therapeutic areas," said microbiology graduate student Courtney Cox, who pioneered the new technique. "As academics, this is exciting because we are better positioned to advance human health by finding new natural products where most companies are reluctant to pursue this line of research."
The most historically popular method for natural product discovery, called bioassay-guided isolation, often rediscovers the same highly abundant (or highly active) compounds over and over again, similar to fishing in a lake and always catching the most plentiful species while sparse species never take the bait.
But this new technique helps researchers find lakes with fewer fish, permitting the effortless identification of species that have already been caught, and ultimatel
|Contact: Nicholas Vasi|
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign