The discovery that a microorganism produced penicillin in 1928 ushered in an unprecedented global effort to mine for new antibiotics from the environment, in particular from microorganisms that live in soil. It remains one of the most impactful scientific discoveries in our species’ history, as it resulted in nearly doubling our life span. Currently, approximately 50% of antibiotics used to treat infections in the clinic were inspired by or directly derived from this type of antibiotics, called “natural products.” Unfortunately, infectious bacteria are becoming resistant to these antibiotics at a faster rate than they are being discovered. This results in a significantly higher risk of mortality from infections that were once treatable. To combat this threat and discover new potential medicines, our lab explores unique environments in the ocean – such as hydrothermal chimneys in the freezing waters of Iceland, or bacteria from sponges growing off of shipwrecks right in our Great Lakes – to find new antibiotics. We aim to engage in a conversation about the exploration for new medicines in the ocean, current challenges faced by antibiotic discovery researchers, and the future of antibiotic resistance.
Brian T. Murphy, Ph.D.
Brian T. Murphy, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He earned MS and PhD degrees in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Virginia Tech, and did postdoctoral training at the University of California San Diego. In 2010 he was hired into the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at UIC. Brian currently resides in Chicago and runs a drug discovery research program (www.murphylabuic.com) that has been featured in NPR, BBC Focus Magazine, Chemical & Engineering News, Science Daily, and The Toronto Star, among other publications. His lab is committed to weekly science outreach with the James Jordan Boys & Girls Club and other local afterschool programs. Additionally, Brian is a contributing blogger to RebootIllinois.com and freelance writer, covering issues of politics and social justice.