Gabriel Mashabela of the South African Medical Research Council will develop novel tuberculosis drugs derived from South African medicinal plants by utilizing CRISPR genome editing technology to produce Mycobacterium deficient in essential metabolic enzymes that can be used to screen natural products. Although the majority of approved drugs are of natural origin, most drug-screening approaches use synthetic libraries, which lack diversity. However, natural products contain very low concentrations of bioactive compounds making them difficult to use in traditional drug screens. To address this, they will use CRISPR to reduce the levels of a selection of essential metabolic enzymes, without removing them completely, so that lower levels of bioactive compounds are needed. They will prepare extracts from 100 plants with anti-mycobacterial activity, and perform whole cell screening to identify those with killing activity against the different Mycobacterium mutants. These can then be further optimized for drug development.
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