NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Lucigen today announced a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop metagenomic DNA libraries for the identification of new antimicrobial and other anti-infective drug candidates.
The Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant is the largest such grant that the Middleton, Wis.-based firm has ever received, it said, and will be used to create large metagenomic libraries for screening antimicrobial activity against four multiple drug-resistant pathogens.
Lucigen is partnering with Auburn University and the University of Mississippi on the project. In an earlier Phase I grant, Lucigen and Auburn used metagenomics to create a DNA library from soil microbes. The research led to 28 new compounds that inhibit the growth of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
Each year more than 100,000 Americans die from untreatable microbial infections, most of which are resistant to drugs. Lucigen said that the natural environment, particularly soils, which have a great diversity of microbial life, represent a promising source "for new antibiotic structures with potentially novel mechanisms of action."
With the new grant, Lucigen hopes to discover hundreds of new chemical entities which may lead to new drug candidates with "high potency against multiple bacterial pathogens." The drug candidates would be assessed for effectiveness using a novel in vivo MRSA assay.
The libraries also would be a valuable resource for screening bioactive compounds for potential use against other medical conditions such as cancer, viruses, and fungi, Lucigen said.