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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Where Science Meets Society

A New Tool for Genetically Engineering the Oldest Branch of Life

A new study by G. William Arends Professor of Microbiology Bill Metcalf and IGB Fellow Dipti Nayak has documented the use of CRISPR-Cas9 mediated genome editing in the third domain of life, Archaea, for the first time. Their groundbreaking work, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [DOI:10.1073/pnas.1618596114], has the potential to vastly accelerate future studies of these organisms, with implications for research including global climate change.

Gone fishin’ for natural products, with a new dragnet

­Nature contains a treasure trove of substances that could help fight human disease. Just this year, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine honored the development of drugs that fight parasites and malaria based on such “natural products.” But finding these molecules and discovering new chemical identities represents slow and painstaking work. This week in ACS Central Science, researchers report a new way to greatly speed up that process.

Prof. of Molecular and Cellular Biology William Metcalf Named AAAS Fellow

Six researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), including William Metcalf, G. William Arends Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology in the department of microbiology and leader of the IGB Mining Microbial Genomes research theme.

Metcalf earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1991. He was selected for “pioneering discoveries on the genetics and enzymology of methanogenesis by archaea and the mechanisms for aerobic methane formation in marine surface waters.”

Genome mining effort discovers 19 new natural products in four years

It took two postdoctoral researchers, a lab technician, four undergraduates and their faculty advisors only four years – a blink of an eye in pharmaceutical terms – to scour a collection of 10,000 bacterial strains and isolate the genes responsible for making 19 unique, previously unknown phosphonate natural products, researchers report. Each of these products is a potential new drug. One of them has already been identified as an antibiotic.

Study identifies prime source of ocean methane

Up to 4 percent of the methane on Earth comes from the ocean’s oxygen-rich waters, but scientists have been unable to identify the source of this potent greenhouse gas. Now researchers report that they have found the culprit: a bit of “weird chemistry” practiced by the most abundant microbes on the planet.

The findings appear in the journal Science.

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