Bioactive molecule discovery and biosynthesis

Microbial cells are living factories for manufacturing a large array of metabolites 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 molecules have been an indispensable source of compounds for agricultural and therapeutic applications. 

Microbial genome sequencing has revealed a substantial number of biosynthetic genes, but the majority of these genes have no known associated metabolites, indicating that microbes hold incredible potential for new metabolite discovery. We are interested in discovering novel metabolites from underexplored microbes through genome mining approach, 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 medical devices

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 smart medicines for precise and targeted treatment. To address this challenge, we aim to engineer microbes (e.g. probiotics) to produce diagnostic or therapeutic functions upon the detection of disease of interest using a combination of metabolic engineering, protein engineering, and synthetic biology approach.