Bacteria have the capacity to produce natural products with exquisite bioactivities, which makes these compounds excellent candidates as medicines and agrochemicals. In an era of widespread antimicrobial and antifungal resistance, it is essential that new bioactive compounds are discovered, as these can serve as leads for drug discovery.
A promising approach is to explore the biosynthetic capacity of understudied bacteria. Cyanobacteria are known to produce numerous clinically important molecules, such as dolastatin, which forms the basis of an approved anti-lymphoma drug. However, only a few natural products have been discovered from some species.
The goal of this project is to harness the potential of overlooked cyanobacteria for the discovery of antibiotics that are active towards clinical-important pathogens. This will be guided by genomics, which can be used to predict whether a cyanobacterium is likely to produce new molecules. This will be supported by advanced mass spectrometry and bioactivity screening to guide compound discovery.
This multidisciplinary project will be based in the laboratory of Dr Andrew Truman in the Department of Molecular Microbiology at the John Innes Centre, which has world-class facilities for bacterial genetics and natural product biosynthesis. Cyanobacteria expertise is provided by secondary supervisor Dr David Lea-Smith (University of East Anglia), who is an expert in the physiology, biotechnology and genetics of Cyanobacteria.
This project provides an exciting opportunity to discover new bioactive molecules and develop skills across genetics, mass spectrometry, cyanobacterial physiology and natural products chemistry (purification and structural elucidation by NMR). Applications are welcomed from students across the biological and chemical sciences with a desire to work on a multidisciplinary project.