Microbiome research could produce an incredible array of products: from novel antibiotics and other drugs, to feed additives for cattle, chickens and swine, to industrial chemicals, to…The list of applications is virtually endless.
These opportunities are incredibly attractive, but there’s a problem that’s slowing us down. Most microbes are difficult to isolate and cultivate. Traditional microbiology techniques and workflows cannot accommodate the rapid expansion in microbiome research labs. Take any sample – soil, stool, ocean – and there may be millions of microbes in each. Any one of these could have great value, but with present technology that sample is exceedingly difficult to pick apart, and significant discoveries could be overlooked.
Isolation and cultivation are critical steps. Without them, it’s hard to determine whether a specific microbe can be useful. Can it support a specific application; does it produce interesting enzymes and/or metabolites; can it be scaled?
Traditional microbiology methods present a number of barriers. First, they’re quite labor intensive. Researchers have to spend their time on the care and feeding of microbes. For example, it might take 5,000 petri dishes to get the statistical heft to power a good study. That’s a lot of streaking, and there’s always the risk that fast-growing strains will overwhelm many of these dishes and suppress other important one’s.
They are also space-intensive. Where are we going to put all of those dishes? This becomes even more prohibitive when the target bacterium is anaerobic. Sometimes experiments have to be staggered because the dishes cannot fit into a single chamber.
After all this effort, perhaps the greatest problem is that these methods are low-yield. It might take months or years to isolate a single strain. If that microbe is useful – awesome. If not, it’s back to the drawing board.
What’s needed is a solution that isolates multiple microbes in parallel. Once separated from the pack, these strains can be grown and studied: proteomics, metabolomics, mass spectrometry, etc.
That’s what GALT is working on. We know there’s gold in those samples – cool chemistry, enzymes, bugs as drugs. We just have to develop a better method to efficiently pan for that gold.
Our high throughput microbiology solution is that method. The answers are there, and we are building new tools for microbiome researchers to find them faster.