One of the greatest challenges in medicine is the provision of new antibiotics in the face of increasing resistance. One solution may prove to be natural product biosynthetic engineering to create unnatural antibiotics, antivirals, and immunosuppressants.
The past two decades have witnessed major advances in our understanding of natural product biosynthesis, including the genetic basis for toxin production by bacteria, algae and fungi. Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) have drugs encoded within their genomes, some of which are potent toxins and potential therapeutics. Research in this area has provided evidence of genetic recombination and possible gene transfer in aquatic environments. It is also piecing together the cellular regulators of toxin production, as well as associated transport mechanisms. Importantly, this research is also hinting at the unlimited scale of potential.
Professor Brett Neilan will explain, in non-specialist terms, how current directions in drug design and sustainable production, extremophile biology, bioprospecting, and ethnopharmacology are being used to discover and produce new drugs.