Microbial Biosynthesis

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.

In the lab for microbial biosynthesis we are interested in all aspects of these natural products. We work on identifying new natural products with pharmaceutical potential; by studying single enzyme encoded in biosynthetic gene cluster, we work towards a better understanding of how these natural products are constructed; through a chemical biology approach we attempt to identify their molecular target and mode-of-action; and importantly, we invest time in optimizing their production and aim for pilot scale production of the most promising compounds.