Microorganisms are incredibly talented at producing complex natural product, sometimes termed secondary metabolites. Beside the their ecological role, these natural products are one of the cornerstones of modern medicine: from simple infections to malaria, from high blood pressure to cancer – bioactive molecules originating from microbes form the foundation for numerous approved therapeutics. Natural products are complex and extremely diverse, they have very specific molecular targets, and excellent passage into bacterial and fungal cells – all attributes that have been evolutionary refined over millennia. The enzymes required for producing a natural product are grouped in a single genomic cluster – termed a biosynthetic gene cluster (BGC) – a feature that allows coordinated and precise gene expression in the microbes, but also allow us to pinpoint their presence in bacterial genome and bioinformatically predict new natural products. Together with plummeting prices for genome sequencing, this has revealed a huge potential for finding new bioactive natural products for the medicinal purposes, but also emphasized that natural products play a key role in human commensal and pathogenic bacteria.
Understanding the mode-of-action of bioactive compounds
In the lab, we have several projects on bioactive natural products. We attempt to understand how they can inhibit the growth of other microorganisms investigating their mode-of-action.
Isolating environmental bacteria
We are continually isolating and screening new environmental bacteria for their biosynthetic potential.
Optimizing production of bioactive natural products
Production of sufficient amounts for testing the potential of new natural products can quickly become a bottleneck. We attempt to approach this by working bench-top bioreactors and simple tools for production optimization.