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Center for Advanced Microbial Processing (CAMP)

The Center for Advanced Microbial Processing's mission is to identify and isolate the genetic components responsible for the generation of the target molecules in non-model organisms and to engineer them for insertion into model bacterial hosts with the ultimate goal being the efficient and cost-effective production of the target molecule.

At the Center for Advanced Microbial Processing we will work toward our goals through interactions between three state-of-the-art facilities:

  • A next-generation sequencing center (led by Dr. Garth Ehrlich) which will allow for mining of microbial genomes, metagenomes and hologenomes that we identify as producers of target molecules
  • A biochemistry and proteomics analysis laboratory (led by Dr. Joris Beld), which will allow for screening, identification, analysis and purification of target molecules
  • A microbial engineering lab (led by Dr. Ben Janto) for the cloning of genes of interest and the efficient production of target molecules

Antibiotic pipelines in industry are drying up, and more and more pathogens are emerging with resistance to our current treatments. The goal of the Center for Advanced Microbial Processing (CAMP) is to tackle this problem by using microbes as both a source and a tool for the discovery and production of therapeutic agents and novel biologicals.

Nature is extremely efficient at producing complex molecules from very simple starting materials. For example, plants and algae turn sunlight and CO2 into many diverse molecules, including DNA, RNA, proteins, sugars and lipids. Other microbes like many bacteria utilize simple sugars (e.g., glucose) as their food source. Humans have also learned how to make many of these complex molecules synthetically in the laboratory, however the costs and effort can be staggering. Allowing microbes make these molecules for us is the founding principle of biotechnology. This process only requires food for the microbe (e.g., sugar for bacteria), which provides us the product relatively inexpensively. On top of that, bacteria can be fermented at high densities and growth rates, making this biotechnological process fast and efficient.

This approach has only been commercialized in a few cases, often because the underlying biochemistry and microbiology of the microbe is not well understood. For example, in some cases the product itself can be food for the bacteria and thus will be eaten before we can isolate it. Sometimes the product is toxic to the producer. In other cases, regulatory elements can prohibit overproduction or there is simply not sufficient intermediate substrate present in the cell for product formation. These are just a handful of the challenges in designing a microbial platform for rapid, high-yield production of high-value products, like biofuels, medicines or building blocks for the chemical industry.

In order to solve many of these hurdles, researchers have ushered in an era of "metabolic engineering" or "synthetic biology." In this process, we first gain genomic, proteomic and metabolic insight from the bacteria, so that we can build a model of the bacteria in silico. This model describes all the genes, proteins and metabolites in the bacteria and allows us to define metabolic bottlenecks beforehand. With surgical precision we can then edit the genome of the bacteria to remove these hurdles, by insertion of extra genes or deletion and mutation of existing genes. In the end, the goal is to custom design a bacterial strain that produces the desired product in greater amount and faster the original progenitor strain. Engineering the biosynthetic clusters responsible for the production of high-value molecules (e.g., novel drugs) into hosts that are easier to grow is the holy grail of modern metabolic engineering.

 
News and Announcements
 

Dr. Ehrlich Gives Keynote Address

Garth Ehrlich, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, presented the keynote lecture at the 8th International Conference on Emerging Zoonoses, Manhattan, Kansas, on May 8, 2017. His talk was titled "Toward Re-Potentiating Antibiotics Against Bacterial Biofilms and Persisters Through an Understanding of Bacterial Physiology."

Dr. Ehrlich presenting his keynote lecture
Dr. Ehrlich presenting his keynote lecture.


Sean F. Bradley, PhD, presents his research.

Sean F. Bradley, PhD, presents his research.

"Natural Products From Uncultured Bacteria"

On Wednesday, March 29, Joris Beld, PhD, hosted Sean F. Bradley, PhD, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Tri-Institutional Associate Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules, The Rockefeller University. Dr. Brady’s research interests center on both the discovery and the functional characterization of new small molecules from previously inaccessible genetic sources. His presentation at the IMMID research seminar was called "Natural products from uncultured bacteria." Learn more about Dr. Brady and his lab.


Genomics Reveal How Bacteria Evolve in Cystic Fibrosis Patients

Scientists have made new headway in understanding how a deadly pathogen evolves during chronic lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients. "By looking at changes in the genome over time, we were able to see patterns — common themes that help us to better understand how this particular species evolves in its environment and how CF patients become chronically infected," said study co-corresponding author Joshua Chang Mell, PhD, an assistant professor at Drexel University College of Medicine. Drexel Now (March 21, 2017)

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Garth D. Ehrlich, PhD

Garth D. Ehrlich, PhD
Founder and Executive Director of CAMP; Professor of Microbiology & Immunology; Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery