Professor Barrie Wilkinson

Group Leader Molecules from Nature Programme Leader Molecules from Nature

Barrie researches the discovery and biosynthesis of microbial natural products.

He is particularly interested in identifying new compounds with antibiotic and antifungal properties, and in characterising the biosynthetic pathways and biochemical mechanisms by which they are made.

Barrie’s research involves investigating the targets for these compounds and elucidating their mode of action.

This research generates new therapeutic compounds whilst providing a deeper understanding of the evolution of molecular diversity.

  • Identification of microbial natural products and targets
  • Understanding the mode of action of therapeutic compounds
  • Characterising biosynthetic pathways

Natural products produced by bacteria and fungi represent a major source of antibiotic and anticancer pharmaceuticals for the treatment of life threatening disease. They are important as immunosuppressant agents after transplant surgery, as drugs for the treatment of parasitic diseases, and as environmentally benign insecticides for use in crop protection.

The research in their group is focussed on identifying the pathways that bacteria use for the biosynthesis of these compounds and understanding the unusual biochemical mechanisms involved in their assembly. They have particular interest in natural products with utility for the treatment of drug resistant bacteria, fungi and viruses which represent immediate and alarming public health threats.

The group aims to better understand and then mimic how nature evolves the genes responsible for the amazing diversity of structures observed in natural product chemical space. In so doing they aspire to develop new methods and tools in order to improve access to valuable yet difficult to produce natural products, and to bioengineer new derivatives with improved activity, selectivity and biophysical properties for application as pharmaceuticals and crop protection agents.

Additionally, they are investigating the molecular targets of antibacterial natural products and the mechanisms by which they exert their biological activity.

Opportunities

The Wilkinson lab is always open to possible collaborations and fellowship applications.