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Synthetic bacteria-fighting organisms win Lemelson-MIT prize
Written by Daniel   
Wednesday, 27 February 2008 14:00

 Synthetic bacteria-fighting organisms win Lemelson-MIT prize

February 27, 2008 5:00 AM PST
Posted by Michael Kanellos
C/Net news 

Timothy Lu, who is trying to bring back a method for fighting bacterial infections that fell out of favor in the West decades ago, has won the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT student prize for 2008.
Lu and J.J. Collins, professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, created two bacteriophages that target E. coli. Bacteriophages are viruses that attack bacteria. The idea is to combine bacteriophage with antibiotics to better stamp out infectious diseases. Bacteriophage can also be used in food processing to prevent E. coli from infecting meat or vegetables. (Remember the 2006 spinach recall?)

Administered together, a genetically enhanced bacteriophage and antibiotics can potentially kill 30,000 times more bacteria than antibiotics alone. One of the bacteriophages were shown to be 99.997 percent effective against biofilms, a slime that can cover medical equipment.

Timothy Lu studies a biofilm. He has created bacteriophages that can wipe them out.
(Credit: MIT)

More importantly, the two have created a relatively simple synthetic biology platform for creating new bacteriophages. Synthetic biology involves manipulating the genetic makeup of an organism or creating entirely new organisms out of lab-created strands of genes. Most companies, such as Synthetic Genomics, are developing relatively complex organisms that can turn wood into ethanol or other tasks. Lu's organisms require less engineering. Lu and Collins will next conduct research with the Center for Disease control on the concept. Companies have also approached them about licensing.  [C/Net News...]   [Comments...]

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