Antibiotic Hunters: Discovering Drugs in the Ocean

July 11, 2017

The Radler
2375 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647, United States


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.

Event Details