For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

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.

Close up Macro of Deer Tick Crawling on Skin

Help us! Send in your ticks.

If you find a tick on yourself, a friend, or a pet, please take five minutes and mail it to us. Your efforts will help in combating one of the biggest rising epidemics facing our society and set the foundation towards finding a cure!

Learn More

Download Microbiome Testing on Ticks Form [PDF]

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

Luisa Hiller, PhD, presenting 'Deciphering the Pneumococcal Language'

"Deciphering the Pneumococcal Language"

On Wednesday, October 18, Garth Ehrlich, PhD, hosted Luisa Hiller, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Hiller presented her research, entitled "Deciphering the Pneumococcal Language." Her lab is interested in understanding the role of bacteria in both health and disease, particularly the commensal pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Courtney Fesko and Kirsten Larson, PhD

CAMP Student Courtney Fesko Wins Discovery Day Prize

Courtney Fesko, a CAMP student in the Biochemistry master's degree program, received second place in the "Outstanding Junior Graduate Student Poster" category at Discovery Day 2017.

Fesko's poster was titled "Metabolite production of a probiotic E. coli strain." Her advisor is Joris Beld, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology.

Discovery Day, the College of Medicine's annual research day, was held on Thursday, October 12, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Dr. Ehrlich Honored at Graduate School Awards

Each year, faculty members of the Graduate School for Biomedical Science and Professional Studies are recognized for their outstanding research accomplishments and contributions to graduate education. Garth Ehrlich, PhD, received the Established Investigator Award during this year’s ceremony, held on May 11 at The Logan.

Graduate School Faculty Award winners including Garth Ehrlich, PhD
Recipients of the 2017 Graduate School Faculty Awards, including Garth Ehrlich, PhD (second from right)

Educational mobile app about HIV replication developed by the Institute for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease will released in Apple and Google Play stores on June 1

JUNE 1, 2017

CD4 HunterTM, the first educational mobile game app developed by the Institute for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease is available. FREE download at Apple and Google Play App Stores. Watch the CD4 Hunter trailer.

CD4 HunterTM combines fast-paced game play with science learning to showcase the first step of the complex and dynamic replication cycle of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1): binding and attachment. The app will be available for free download on Apple and Google Play app stores on June 1 and will be presented at Microbe 2017, the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) held in New Orleans, June 1-5, 2017. CD4 Hunter was developed “in house” by the Center for Business and Program Development of the Institute for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease (IMMID), at Drexel University College of Medicine. Learn more.

See all news

 Back to Top

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