Skip to Content

New Technology Aids Quest for Dormant Genes

A petri dish with multi-colored liquid inside

English chemist Alexander Fleming may have been brilliant, but he was also lucky. In 1928 he caught a Penicillium mold in the act of warding off bacteria with what was destined to become the 20th century’s premier antibiotic.

The story of penicillin is one of many in which organisms like bacteria, fungi and plants have been found to harbor genes for substances with the potential to improve human health and even save lives. But it’s likely that many more such genes lie hidden because the organisms don’t need them often enough for scientists to detect their handiwork.

Michael Smanski doesn’t want to wait. An assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics in the U’s College of Biological Sciences, Smanski has developed a technology to quickly search organisms for genes that could make the next great antibiotic or anticancer drug. His methods also allow him to find the best way to assemble the parts of those genes so they can function optimally.

Read the full story in Minnesota Alumni.

Erin Dennis

Erin Dennis

Erin is assistant communications director for the Office of the Vice President for Research and senior editor of Inquiry. 

edennis@umn.edu

Latest Blog Posts

Aurora in the night sky

A U of M researcher's team has taken a giant step toward understanding the genesis of solar storms, which could help in limiting the damage they cause.

Read More
Books and laptop computer

As the potential of precision medicine rapidly advances, U researchers are among those helping to map and shape the law around how genetic tools are used.

Read More
Health care professional speaking to elderly man

The Minnesota Population Center will lead a five-year, $12.8 million study examining how educational experiences early in life may deter the onset of Alzheimer’s later on.

Read More
Graphic of global ideas

Of all the assets that make up the U’s research enterprise—from state-of-the-art equipment to leading lab facilities—researchers’ ideas are the most valuable.

Read More