OpaL: a synthetic biology approach to treating antibiotic resistant infections

During high school and college, I developed a proof-of-concept technology that will serve as a novel way of treating antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. I spoke about this research at TEDxMileHigh and I published this research in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.biochem.8b00888). My technology is essentially an engineered probiotic that precisely targets and destroys pathogens. It starts with benign donor bacteria (the probiotic) delivering pieces of DNA to target pathogenic bacteria by a process known as bacterial conjugation. The DNA includes a gene that I call opaL. Once in the target bacteria, the opaL gene produces an aggregating antimicrobial peptide which kills the pathogens. This peptide operates by a novel mechanism, so there is no preexisting resistance against OpaL. Because of a promoter-based targeting system, this technology will not harm a person’s indigenous bacteria, so it will be safer than traditional antibiotics as well.

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