How Microbes Make Drug-like Molecules

Many life-saving drugs come from natural sources such as microbes. Learning how host organisms produce these drugs is an area of intense interest because scientists could exploit the pathways to produce more and better drug variants. Schmidt and colleagues have elucidated the mechanisms by which microbes produce one class of drug-like molecules, the Ribosomally-synthesized and Post-translationally modified Peptides (RiPPs). Continue reading → How Microbes Make Drug-like Molecules

Research Statement

Most of our projects focus on marine animals from the coral reef. The animals and their compounds are beautiful, and they are therapeutically important.

The diversity of animal species is awe inspiring, and each species contains a vast and largely unknown treasure trove of unique chemicals. Animals use the compounds for many purposes, including defense, offense, and communication. Essentially, the chemicals are made to influence the behavior other animals around them, often by targeting the nervous system.

Even more astounding, often the chemicals are not made by the animals themselves, but instead by their symbiotic microbiota. Animals form highly specific relationships with bacteria and other microbes, who produce bioactive compounds used by the animals.

Our laboratory examines the chemistry of ecological interaction. We use methods such as metagenomics and biochemistry to ask who makes the important compounds, whether symbiotic bacteria, the animal itself, or other organism. We ask how the compounds are built, uncovering new types of biochemical reactions and enzymes.

The applications of these fundamental studies are numerous. Animal compounds are used as pharmaceuticals, and compounds from our lab are leads in various therapeutic areas. The underlying biosynthetic pathways can be used as tools for synthetic biology, and pathways from our lab are in commercial use in biotechnology and drug discovery. For more information, see our publications.

Schmidt Marine Natural Products Lab