Ant Pharming: genome mining for new antibiotics (WILKINSON_J17DTP2)

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an increasingly serious threat to global public health, but is an inevitable consequence of the use of antibacterial agents. This studentship will seek to discover structurally unique antibiotics from bacterial mutualists that live on the cuticle of fungus farming leaf cutter ants. The project is collaborative with Professor Matt Hutchings at UEA.

Penicillin isolated from the fungus Penicillium notatum sparked 'The Golden Age of Antibiotics' which spanned the 1940's to 1960's when most major classes of antibiotics were discovered. Indeed, the majority of antibiotics in clinical use today are derived from natural products made by microorganisms. Natural products are important for the treatment of malaria and parasitic diseases, and as environmentally benign agrochemcials to increase crop yields which can help feed the growing population.

Alarmingly, the pipeline of new antibiotics has dried up at a time when AMR and emerging new pathogens has made their discovery a matter of extreme urgency.

The student will have access to cutting-edge research facilities within JIC and UEA as well as a stimulating research and training environment. They will be part of an interdisciplinary team and through the project they will gain an excellent foundation in natural products chemistry, molecular microbiology, microbial biotechnology and synthetic biology. They will mine multiple microbial genomes to identify new natural products with anti-infective activity. There will be opportunity to interact with industry and other research institutes.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1913134 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Abigail Alford