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Postgraduate student recognised for fungal genetics research

Fabrizio Alberti

Poster winner Fabrizio Alberti

28 April 2015

A PhD student based in the lab of Professor Gary Foster and Dr Andy Bailey (School of Biological Sciences) has won a poster award from the Genetics Society of America (GSA) for research into the development of antibiotics derived from fungus.

Fabrizio Alberti was recognised for his poster, ‘Reconstruction of the biosynthetic pathway for the diterpene antibiotic pleuromutilin in the secondary host Aspergillus oryzae’, which he presented at the 28th Fungal Genetics Conference in California earlier this month.

Antibiotic resistance is currently recognised as one of the major threats to global health security by the World Health Organization. Possible solutions to tackle this problem can be found by either discovering new drugs or manipulating and enhancing production of those that are currently unexploited. Fungi are a natural source of antibiotics, such as the famous case of penicillin and fungi of the genus Penicillium.

Alberti’s research focuses on an antibiotic called pleuromutilin, which is also produced by a fungus (Clitopilus passeckerianus), and is active against the multidrug-resistant human pathogen MRSA. In order to provide a more cost-effective and flexible method of producing this antibiotic, Alberti and colleagues have used synthetic biology and genetic engineering techniques to recreate biosynthesis of the antibiotic pleuromutilin in another fungal host that is more amenable to growing in large-scale fermenters.

‘We are thrilled to see so many early career researchers making substantive contributions to field of fungal genetics’, said Adam P. Fagen, GSA’s Executive Director. ‘These talented scientists shared some exciting research advancements during the conference, which encouraged communication and collaboration across the meeting.’

The conference encourages communication and collaboration between researchers interested in genomics, gene regulation, cell biology and development, evolutionary biology, fungal-host interactions and biotechnology. Nearly 1,000 researchers attended the meeting, and the winning posters were selected by a panel of leading researchers.

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