AUSTIN, Texas — For more affordable, sustainable drug options than we have today, the medication we take to treat high blood pressure, pain or memory loss may one day come from engineered bacteria, cultured in a vat like yogurt. And thanks to a new bacterial tool developed by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, the process of improving drug manufacturing in bacterial cells may be coming sooner than we thought.
For decades, researchers have been eyeing ways to make drug manufacturing more affordable and sustainable than pharmaceutical makers’ current processes, many of which depend on either plant crops or petroleum. Using bacteria has been suggested as a good organic alternative, but detecting and optimizing the production of therapeutic molecules is difficult and time-consuming, requiring months at a stretch. In a new paper out this week in Nature Chemical Biology, the UT Austin team introduces a biosensor system, derived from E. coli bacteria, that can be adapted to detect all kinds of therapeutic compounds accurately and in mere hours.