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SAIAB is part of international research seeking the development of new antibiotics

SAIAB's African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) and Aquatic Genomics Research Platform (AGRP) are among a research consortium that seeks to establish an Antibiotic Accelerator Hub to significantly boost capacity for the discovery of new antibiotics. The focus will be on unexplored, biodiversity-rich habitats, including deep sea and polar environments, offering real potential for new ‘natural product’ derived drugs.

ACEP’s involvement in this project, which is led by Rhodes University’s SARChI Professor, Rosemary Dorrington, entailed providing funding to the project and using SAIAB’s coastal craft and the remotely operated underwater vehicle(ROV) platforms to collect marine specimens (sponges) which are taken back to the lab for analysis. Sponges create complex compounds that the lab team are isolating and testing against various pathogens as explained in the ACEP 2017/18 report, pages 61-65: https://www.saiab.ac.za/uploads/files/acep_report_2018.pdf

Alongside the extraction and testing of novel chemical compounds from marine invertebrates, metagenomic (the total genetic content) analyses of the sponge consortium will also be conducted using the AGRP (SAIAB) facilities and expertise. By mining metagenomic datasets and the genomes of cultured isolates from marine benthic invertebrates, the ability to identify potential new antibiotics is significantly increased.

SAIAB’s Marine Platform Manager and ACEP ROV pilot, Ryan Palmer, said this partnership is a great example of bringing different areas of expertise together to create something much bigger. SAIAB Research Associate and Next Generation Sequencing specialist, Dr Gwynneth Matcher shares similar sentiments that, “the strength of this project is the multidisciplinary approach between chemists, microbiologists, zoologists, and molecular biologists in the search for novel antibiotic discovery.”

You can also read more about the project in our 2018 SAIAB/ACEP glossy pages 44-46: https://bit.ly/3hsD1ud

The full story is published in the Grocott’s Mail: https://www.grocotts.co.za/2020/08/18/rhodes-leads-international-research-int-new-antibiotics/