BIOACTIVE MOLECULE DISCOVERY AND BIOSYNTHESIS
Microbial cells are living factories for manufacturing a large array of metabolites (i.e., small molecules) with unusual chemical features. These molecules are naturally assembled by biocatalysts and are evolutionarily produced for the control of complex microbial physiological processes, microbe-microbe and host-microbe interactions. Due to extremely diverse structural architectures and biological activities, these small molecules have been an indispensable source of compounds for agricultural and therapeutic applications.
We are interested in discovering novel metabolites from microbes, understanding enzymes and regulators involved in their biosynthesis, as well as the functions of these metabolites. A thorough understanding of the hidden metabolites will facilitate the development of novel pharmaceuticals, pesticides, etc.
ENGINEERING MICROBES AS LIVING THERAPEUTICS
Traditional medicines (e.g. antibiotics, antibodies, etc) have been widely used for the treatment of bacterial infections, metabolic disorders, cancers, and other diseases. Despite their impact, excessive use of traditional medicines has led to rapid emergence of resistance to antibiotics and cancer chemotherapeutics. This challenge highlights the need of developing alternative therapeutics for targeted treatment. To address this challenge, we aim to engineer microbes (e.g. probiotics) to produce therapeutic functions upon the detection of disease of interest using a combination of metabolic engineering, protein engineering, and synthetic biology approach.
DISCOVERY OF GUT BACTERIAL ENZYMES FOR XENOBIOTIC BIOTRANSFORMATION
Emerging evidence demonstrates the capabilities of the gut microbiota in modifying the structures and hence the properties of small-molecule pharmaceuticals and dietary compounds. The consequences associated with such modifications can be severe, for example, causing treatment delays and adverse impacts on individuals’ physical and mental health. However, the gut bacterial genes and enzymes responsible remain poorly understood, preventing precision medication based on an individual’s gut microbiome. To address this challenge, we aim to discover and characterize the responsible enzymes. The accomplishment of this project can facilitate precision medicine based on an individual’s gut microbiome.