Discovery of novel antimicrobial peptides to combat current and emerging superbugs

Ingenza Ltd.
University of Plymouth

Jack is developing new methods of producing antimicrobial peptides to fight multidrug resistant microbes as an alternative to conventional small-molecule antibiotics.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most serious threats to human health in the 21st century. Multidrug resistant pathogens, often referred to as superbugs, are microbes that have developed a tolerance to antibiotics. Their emergence in hospitals is a serious threat, as the pathogens are evolving faster than we can develop new antibiotics.

Alternatives to conventional antibiotics are necessary to combat superbugs, and antimicrobial peptides hold promise as effective replacements or to augment their use. Jack will use large scale screening and machine learning to discover novel antimicrobial therapies. The process involves using a reaction mixture containing the biological machinery required for peptide synthesis. This mixture can be used to generate many hundreds of variant peptides that can then be screened rapidly using liquid handling robots for automation. The aim is to identify variants with the best antimicrobial properties. Machine learning will be applied to the resulting data in order to better understand how changing the amino acid sequence can make the peptides more effective.

This project will also develop antibody fragment technology, which involves manufacturing small parts of antibodies, to speed up and standardise the production pipeline for these peptides.

Jack took an alternative route into science through a Modern Apprenticeship with Ingenza. He completed his chemistry degree while working at the company, developing an understanding of analytical chemistry, bio-catalysis, metabolic pathway engineering and bio-pharmaceutical production.

Maral Gstudio with credit
“Being awarded this fellowship will allow me to carry out more ‘blue sky’ research and learn new techniques such as bioinformatics and machine learning, which will support me in becoming a real expert in the field. It has also given me the opportunity to develop ways of communicating my research effectively, which is vital in making the research accessible for all.”