Scientists from the John Innes Centre have proven that by taking a short stretch of DNA from a bacterium and delivering it with an existing antibiotic they can switch off antibiotic resistance.
Together with technology transfer company PBL, the scientists have launched a spin-out company, Procarta Biosystems Ltd, to develop the technology.
“The DNA sequence acts as a decoy, disrupting gene expression and blocking resistance”, said Dr Michael McArthur from JIC.
“We are putting genetic information directly into drugs. This is the first application of a DNA based therapy”.
The scientists have also patented a way of discovering decoys in bacteria without necessarily having to know the genes involved. This means they can develop effective new drugs against any bacterium within a couple of years and at a fraction of the normal cost.
The technology can give fresh patent life to existing antibiotics - when combined with a decoy they can be patented as a new drug.
This comes at a time when the number of new antibiotics receiving approval has dramatically declined. Faced with antibiotic resistance the pharmaceutical industry is unlikely to be able to deliver new products.
“Natural resistance will always be hot on the heels of a new antibiotic because they co-evolve”, said Dr McArthur. “Ours’ is not a traditional pharmaceutical approach and provides a completely new challenge to bacteria”.
The technology can also be used to improve the production of antibiotics by bacteria and to produce enzymes and other compounds using bacteria for use in industrial processes.
Many industrial processes are harsh and unsustainable, using petrochemicals, high temperatures and creating toxic by-products. In industrial biotechnology, also called “white biotechnology”, bacteria make medically and commercially important compounds biologically.
“By using bacteria, many industrial processes could be cleaned up”, said Dr McArthur.
The Procarta scientists found that the bacterium Streptomyces produces a particularly high yield of enzymes and proteins. Unusually, it can also secrete the proteins it produces so they do not have to be extracted.
“Streptomyces is the enzyme producing bacterium with bells and whistles, set to make a major contribution to a market already predicted to be worth £400 million by 2010”, said Dr McArthur.
We use the products of white biotechnology in our everyday lives. They contribute to ingredients in the food we eat, energy we use that has been generated with renewable biomass rather than fossil fuels, medicines we take, and everyday products such as detergents, paint and paper.
Zoe Dunford | alfa
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
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For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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