Chemistry professor Roger Linington at the lab's opening on March 15.

research

Digging for antibiotics just got easier

March 16, 2016
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Finding molecules with antibiotic or anti-cancer properties is a labour intensive task for scientists. Yet, with new state-of-the-art lab and equipment at hand, Roger Linington, a Department of Chemistry professor, hopes his work leads to a breakthrough in drug discovery.

“The natural environment contains a staggering diversity of untapped biosynthetic capacity. Yet, finding molecules with value for human health problems is a huge challenge,” says Linington.

“These new tools we now have will revolutionize the discovery process and take it from a blind exercise in isolation chemistry, to an ordered, multiplexed approach.”

Now, with some of the world’s most powerful equipment to aid his research, Linington’s hunt for a new class of antibiotics is more of a reality than ever before.

So far, his search has taken him from the jungles of Panama to the coral reefs of Hawaii, examining marine sediment, plants, invertebrates and even porpoise guts for environmentally derived bacteria.

Back in his lab, Linington and his team catalogues the compounds and adds them to a library of molecules that, once annotated, provides predictions of potential functions.

“Typically, a gram of soil or ocean sediment can contain up to a billion bacterial cells, including tens of thousands of individual species.”

“One of these species may harbour the genes required to biosynthesize the next antibiotic, or a treatment for other important diseases such as malaria or sleeping sickness.”

The lab’s new instruments will bring substantial horsepower to his lab’s time-consuming process, accelerating the hopes of finding the next one-of-a-kind molecule that can change the world.

Learn more about Linington and his research group at linington.chem.sfu.ca.