Antibiotic Drug Discovery: Identifying Novel Soil Microbes to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

This is a Course-based Research Experience (CRE) class that will provide students with the chance to propose, design and conduct their own research projects, working on topics and seeking answers to questions that are currently unknown to science.

Antibiotic resistance - the ability for bacteria to mutate and evolve, and thus cause antibiotics to fail - is a major global health threat. Pharmaceutical companies are less likely to fund research and development of new antibiotics due to their relative low profitability. As bacteria become more resistant to the antibiotics we use today, it is critical that we have a pipeline of novel antibiotics to combat these pathogens. The main focus of the course will be for students to attempt to discover new antibiotics in soil bacteria and fungus that can ultimately be used to treat infectious disease. Most antibiotics used today are molecules produced by soil bacteria and fungi, used as a defense mechanism to promote their own survival. It is estimated that over 10 billion bacterial cells can inhabit a single gram of soil, and the majority of them are not characterized.

Students in this course will work collaboratively, in small groups, to collect soil samples and analyze novel bacteria within these samples. Students will use PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, DNA-sequencing, bioinformatics, and laboratory tests to characterize their unique isolates. Next, students will design experiment to see if their bacterial isolates have antibiotic activity against "safe-relatives" of pathogens that are resistant to common antibiotics, and that are prevalent in hospital settings causing many infections each year. Isolates that are determined to have antibiotic activity against these bacterial strains, will continue to be characterized using biochemical techniques to extract the molecule/s that has/have antibiotic activity.

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

• Think like a biologist by applying the scientific method to a significant global health threat
• Use appropriate terms to describe antibiotic resistance and the risk that antibiotic resistance poses to global health
• Design experiments to discover novel antibiotics
• Maintain an accurate and organized laboratory notebook that could be used to validate any potential findings
• Generate new isolates of bacteria, characterize and identify the isolates, and determine if the isolates produce small molecules with
antibiotic properties
• Predict experimental outcomes
• Critically analyze data
• Communicate scientific results

Prerequisites: Enrollment in this course is by special admission only. Upon acceptance to [email protected] students must then complete a CRE application that will be reviewed promptly. This course is open to advanced students 16 years of age and older who are rising juniors, seniors or will have recently graduated. Students will be most successful in this course if they have a strong desire to solve a real world medical problem using critical thinking, hypothesis driven experiments, and data analysis. Students should have successfully completed Honors or AP Biology. Additional coursework or interest in microbiology is encouraged, but not required. As seats in the CRE courses are limited, students are encouraged to review the course catalog for additional laboratory research courses available in [email protected]

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEBI0956
  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Supplemental Fee: $250

Program Information

[email protected]

Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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