Search for new antibiotics from Australia's microbiome

Latest News

Macquarie University and UWA scientists are joining forces with two Australian companies to search for new antibiotics in 500,000 species of Australian microbes.

The project will be supported by a $3 million CRC-P grant announced by Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, Senator Zed Seselja. 

“We have samples of over 500,000 Australian microbes,” said Dr Ernest Lacey, managing director of Sydney-based company Microbial Screening Technologies (MST), and the leader of the project.

“We’ve collected them from the soil in backyards, in paddocks, and forests. We’ve collected them from insects, plants and animals. We’ve gone everywhere to find Australia’s unique microbiome.

“Each microbe contains a unique cocktail of metabolites. When we find an interesting new molecule, we’ll be relying on Macquarie University researcher Dr Andrew Piggott and his team to help us to work out its structure and mode of action.

“Then Dr Heng Chooi from UWA will use genomics to unravel how the microbes assemble these metabolites and then boost their productivity.

“Advanced Veterinary Therapeutics (AVT) is led by Dr Stephen Page and will focus on animal health potential,” said Dr Lacey.

“The CRC-P Program helps businesses, industries and research organisations to work together on short-term projects to develop practical solutions to challenges in key industry sectors,” said Assistant Minister Seselja at the project launch. 

The three-year project, 'BioAustralis, towards the future', will harness MST’s unique collection as a source of next-generation antibiotics capable of overcoming microbial resistance.

The project will also provide these new actives, and a library of other unique microbial metabolites, in a ready-to-use format gratis for Australian researchers during the period of the grant. 

“Antibiotic resistance is now one of the most serious threats to both human and animal health worldwide,” said Dr Andrew Piggott, an ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University.

“This project will allow us to identify new and more effective antibiotics already at work in nature that are capable of defeating these deadly superbugs.”

The project’s total value of $6.9 million includes $3.9 million cash and in-kind contributions from participating universities and industry partners. It will support the industry-led collaborative research for up to three years.