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- Search and Discovery Strategies for Biotechnology: the Paradigm Shift

Search and Discovery Strategies for Biotechnology: the Paradigm Shift

By: Alan T. Bull, Alan C. Ward, and Michael Goodfellow

Research School of Biosciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NJ,1 and Department of Agricultural and Environmental Science, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU,2 United Kingdom

Profound changes are occurring in the strategies that biotechnology-based industries are deploying in the search for exploitable biology and to discover new products and develop new or improved processes. The advances that have been made in the past decade in areas such as combinatorial chemistry, combinatorial biosynthesis, metabolic pathway engineering, gene shuffling, and directed evolution of proteins have caused some companies to consider withdrawing from natural product screening. In this review we examine the paradigm shift from traditional biology to bioinformatics that is revolutionizing exploitable biology. We conclude that the reinvigorated means of detecting novel organisms, novel chemical structures, and novel biocatalytic activities will ensure that natural products will continue to be a primary resource for biotechnology. The paradigm shift has been driven by a convergence of complementary technologies, exemplified by DNA sequencing and amplification, genome sequencing and annotation, proteome analysis, and phenotypic inventorying, resulting in the establishment of huge databases that can be mined in order to generate useful knowledge such as the identity and characterization of organisms and the identity of biotechnologytargets. Concurrently there have been major advances in understanding the extent of microbial diversity, how uncultured organisms might be grown, and how expression of the metabolic potential of microorganisms can be maximized. The integration of information from complementary databases presents a significant challenge. Such integration should facilitate answers to complex questions involving sequence, biochemical, physiological, taxonomic, and ecological information of the sort posed in exploitable biology. The paradigm shift which we discuss is not absolute in the sense that it will replace established microbiology; rather, it reinforces our view that innovative microbiology is essential for releasing the potential of microbial diversity for biotechnologypenetration throughout industry. Various of these issues are considered with reference to deep-sea microbiology and biotechnology.

Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2000 September; 64(3): 573–606. © 2000, American Society for Microbiology.

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