Project Spotlight. Antimicrobials

Antimicrobials

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Fungi cause more than 90% of crop diseases; viruses or bacteria cause more than 90% of human infectious diseases. Fungal diseases in humans are often serious and deadly. The need for novel antiviral and antibiotics continues to grow as resistance to existing treatments increases in human and animal populations. Likewise, effective fungicides to treat fungal diseases—either for plants or animals—do not currently exist.

Researchers within the USTAR-funded Synthetic Bioproducts Center at USU conduct antimicrobial research and development activities to combat limitations of current therapeutic treatments for fungal, bacterial and viral disease. The research thrusts within the SBC antimicrobial research group are threefold.

Combining synthetic biology and chemical syntheses, SBC researchers Jon Takemoto, Tom Chang and Jixun Zhan, are developing effective pharmacological antivirals and fungicides with new mechanisms of action for treatment of human and animal infectious diseases. Research funding from the NIH supports this project.

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The development of an all-natural crop fungicide based on lipopeptides is the second antimicrobial research thrust of this team within the SBC. This effective agent against crop diseases is targeted for use in organic agriculture.

A chemically synthesized aminosugar fungicide discovered at Utah State University by SBC researchers, Takemoto and Chang, appears to be a very effective fungicide against crop diseases and pathogenic fungi in humans. Industry-sponsored testing is underway.

Development of antimicrobials at Utah State University with the Synthetic Bioproducts Center spans three colleges: Engineering, Science and Agriculture. The goals of the antimicrobial research team within the SBC are to discover highly effective and safe antimicrobials and to develop methods for their scalable production.