NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A Northeastern University microbiologist will use a $1.4 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in studies of bacteria that will use a genomic sequencing program to find genes responsible for drug resistance, Northeastern professor Kim Lewis told GenomeWeb Daily News today.
Lewis said that he will collaborate with the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard University on the four-year grant, which will fund his lab’s ongoing program focused on the formation of dormant persister bacterial cells. Lewis’ research teams hopes to identify the genes responsible for the cells’ formation and maintenance and to develop a therapy to destroy them.
The genomes of several bacteria, such as E. coli, Y. pestis, P. aeruginosa, and M. tuberculosis, contain critical information about this “devious mechanism pathogens have come up with” that grants them tolerance to multiple drugs, Lewis explained.
The Antimicrobial Discovery Center at Northeastern, which Lewis directs, is developing 100 mutant strains of these bacteria, beginning with E. coli, to send on to the Broad Institute for sequencing. Lewis and his co-investigator, James Galagan, will then look for common traits that may be used to help decipher the mechanisms responsible for antibiotic tolerance. Galagan is associate director of microbial genome analysis at the Broad.
Lewis said the sequencing, which will be done using an Illumina Genome Analyzer, does not need to be deep, and “we don’t need to assemble anything, but you do need to have pretty good coverage.”
Lewis explained that his team hopes to get around 20 genes for the 100 mutants that could be used in dormancy regulation, and he thinks the project may be completed within around one year.
"We know that pathogens produce dormant persister cells, which then resist antibiotics, but we need to know how it happens in order to develop effective treatments against these dormant cells," Lewis added in a statement today.