Led by Dr Keith Shearwin, in the University’s School of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, the research facilitates faster development of designer bacteria used in therapeutic drug development, such as insulin, and other biotechnology products.
Designer bacteria are produced by integrating extra pieces of genetic material into the DNA of bacteria, in this case E. coli, so that the bacteria will make a desired product.
“E. coli strains are commonly used workhorses for biotechnology and metabolic engineering,” Dr Shearwin says.
“For example, new genes or even the genetic material for whole metabolic pathways are inserted into the bacteria’s chromosome so that they produce compounds or proteins not normally produced. Insulin is an example of a therapeutic product produced in this way.”
“The existing process for integrating new genes is inefficient, taking several days. Our new process can be completed overnight.”
As well as speeding up the process, ‘clonetegration’ enables multiple rounds of genetic engineering on the same bacteria, and simultaneous integration of multiple genes at different specific locations.
“This will become a valuable technique for facilitating genetic engineering with sequences that are difficult to clone as well as enable the rapid construction of synthetic biological systems,” Dr Shearwin says.
The research was a collaboration with Stanford University, California. The molecular tools needed for the clonetegration process will be made freely available for ongoing research and development.