NCIMB and RGU kick-off new Streptomyces screening project

NCIMB has joined forces with scientists at Robert Gordon University (RGU) to screen Streptomyces species for the production of novel natural products that have potential for use in pharmaceuticals such as antimicrobials, anti-tumour or anti-inflammatory medication, as well as compounds relevant to other industry sectors.  

Bacteria are used to manufacture a wide range of important products, including antibiotics and other medicines. NCIMB’s culture collection – The National Collection of Industrial Food and Marine Bacteria – includes more than 10,000 different microbes and has great potential as a source of valuable new compounds.

During the three year project, which has received funding from Innovate UK, the research team will focus on new compounds from the well-known antibiotic producing bacteria, Streptomyces. There are many different strains of Streptomyces, which play and important role in organic matter decomposition, and are responsible for the familiar earthy smell of soil. 

They also have an enormously important role in antibiotic production, producing most of the clinically-used antibiotics of natural origin.

Dr Edwards, who is the lead academic from RGU, said: “It is vital that we increase the pace of antibiotic discovery as every day we see new cases of antibiotic resistance in the UK and around the world.

“We are delighted to work in partnership with our colleagues at NCIMB on this important project. Their culture collection has vast amounts of potential for new discoveries and also opens doors to isolates from as far afield as Venezuela, Nigeria, Japan, Tibet and Hawaii, which may not have been fully assessed yet.

“This is one of the new fronts in the battle against superbugs and cancer, and we’re looking forward to starting our analysis of the cultures and finding out what compounds are available which will help us in these areas.”

NCIMB curator Dr Samantha Law, said: “We are really excited about the potential of this work with the team from RGU, as we have known for a long time that we are in possession of what is potentially a treasure trove of valuable new compounds.

“Since the collection was created in the 1950s, there have been significant developments in the tools available to study microorganisms, that pave the way to revealing properties and potential uses that could not have been predicted by previous generations of scientists. Using modern laboratory techniques to screen strains within the culture collection is therefore a priority area for NCIMB”.

“Streptomyces’ complex secondary metabolism made them an obvious choice for this project and we hope that it is just one step in a programme of work that will add value to the culture collection through the provision of more information about the strains within it”.

For further information, contact Dr Samantha Law