Genetically Engineered Microorganisms as Drug Factories


Researchers from the University at Buffalo have filed several patents related to genetically engineering microorganisms, such as E. coli, into tiny “cellular factories” to produce pharmaceutical compounds, such as flavonoids, that fight aging, cancer or obesity, as well as high-value chemicals.

In work published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology in June, Koffas and his colleagues produced about 400 milligrams of flavonoids per liter of cell culture, far above the next highest yield of about 20 milligrams per liter produced by other microbial synthesis efforts.

“We have done this by increasing the amount of precursor available and re-engineering the native microbial metabolism,” he explained, adding that they have taken different approaches to identifying the pathways that lead to the biosynthesis of precursors for desired compounds.

The UB researchers are exploring adapting these strategies to produce other commercially significant compounds such as vitamins, drugs, dyes and food supplements.


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