The discovery of antibiotics is one of the most important ones in the history of humankind. For eighty years the life expectancy and the standards of living of humans have greatly improved thanks to antibiotics.
But the age of antibiotics may be over because of the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains and the paucity in new drug development. New and alternative strategies must be explored as antibiotic therapies become obsolete because of bacterial resistance.
We use chemical engineering principles to model, design, construct and test new antimicrobial technologies. We are focusing on naturally occurring antibiotics, such as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), and on smart delivery vehicles, such as recombinant probiotic bacteria.
We design antimicrobial peptides to target multi-drug resistant pathogens. We cannot administer these peptides orally because as proteins they are degraded in the stomach of hosts. Instead we recruit probiotic bacteria and engineer them as the production factories and delivery vehicles of AMPs. Probiotics are non-virulent, bile resistant bacteria that can survive passage through the stomach and reach the GI tract of hosts. The GI tract is where the vast majority of pathogens reside. We use synthetic biology techniques to modify probiotics to produce and secrete AMPs at the site of infection.
We are currently collaborating with clinicians to fight enterococcal infections and urinary tract infections. We are also collaborating with veterinarians to fight salmonella and clostridia infections in livestock.