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Research Focus : Drug discovery from Environmental Source: small molecules for new drugs

 

Drug discovery from Environmental Source: small molecules for new drugs 

1. The research activity is mostly focused on bioprospecting from extreme environments, in particular from Arctic and Antarctic regions. Microorganisms inhabiting these regions represent an untapped reservoir of biodiversity, and their promising biotechnological potential, as source of novel compounds and biocatalysts, is yet to be fully exploited. Specifically, we aim at the identification of novel antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compounds. 
As for the antimicrobial compounds, we test our compounds towards a panel of Multi-Drug Resistance human pathogens (among the others: Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumanii and Burkholderia cenocepacia), and parasite nematode using the nematodes Caenorhabtidis elegans as model system.

In addition, we aim at sampling and isolating novel microbial strains from extreme marine environments in order to improve cultivation methods from the uncultivable fraction of microorganisms.
This project is in the framework of the EU-funded initiative, the FP7-projectPharmaSea and H2020-MSCA-RISE: Ocean Medicine and H2020-MSCA- ETN-ITN: MarPipe.

2. Another aim is focused on the dissection of the virulence and pathogenicity determinants of human pathogens by using non-vertebrate host model, like Caenorhabtidis elegans. 
Finding novel virulence factors of these pathogens results in the identification of novel gene or target to use to fight the infection of these hazardous pathogens.

3. Other research activities are devoted to collect, analyse and describe the microbial biodiversity coming from cold biotopes. Our studies are also focused on antifreeze enzymes, with high potential for biotechnological applications. These enzymes are isolated from psychrophilic microorganisms from both genomic and metagenomic approaches. Biochemical facilities are also available, and therefore we are able to purify and characterize small antimicrobial peptides. The molecular adaptation to cold of these biocatalysts is also investigated.