The Precision Engineering business unit of Microbia, Inc. (Cambridge, MA) has entered into a research collaboration with the Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI, Singapore) to develop a set of metabolic engineering tools for improving the production of secondary metabolites from actinomycete fermentation. Actinomycetes are a broad class of bacteria, and their secondary metabolites are used in various therapeutics such as antibiotics, immunosuppressants, and anticancer agents such as potent cytotoxins.
Although the company will focus on a specific organism and the initial target will be a cancer therapeutic, the company anticipates the techniques and tools developed during the two-year project will be generally applicable to the broad class of antinomycete-based biomanufacturing. “We are focusing on the biology, applying our skills and proprietary techniques to a specific species of bacteria with the anticipation that what we learn will be generally applicable to any actinomycete fermentation,” says Kevin Madden, senior director of Precision Engineering.
Microbia’s set of metabolic profiling tools, including microarray technologies, transcriptional profiling, and informatic approaches, will identify those genes that are critical for optimal metabolite production. The company previously applied these techniques to industrial strains of fungi. “The problems with industrial fungi very much parallel the engineering challenges with actinomycetes in that molecular biology tools really have not worked all that well when trying to improve the volumetric productivity of the commercial strains,” says Madden.