As an Emeritus Fellow Mervyn no longer runs a research group but interacts closely with other members of the Streptomyces group and continues to contribute to the advancement of JIC’s science.
Much of his research focussed on understanding antibiotic production and its regulation in actinomycetes, the major source of clinically useful antibiotics. The resulting knowledge was used not only to understand how these complex molecules are made, but also to engineer the producing organisms to make potentially improved derivatives.
Genome sequencing has revealed that actinomycetes have the potential to produce many more natural products than previously thought; he also focused on the activation of these silent biosynthetic gene clusters leading to the discovery of novel compounds with anti-bacterial activity.
His work led to the formation of two John Innes Centre spin-out companies, Novacta Biosystems and Procarta Biosystems, of which he is co-founder.
Mervyn oversees the Streptomyces group’s industrial interactions and is co-director of a highly successful biennial series of Summer Schools in Croatia on microbial specialised metabolites.
Widdick D., Royer S. F., Wang H., Vior N. M., Gomez-Escribano J. P., Davis B. G., Bibb M. J.Analysis of the tunicamycin biosynthetic gene cluster of Streptomyces chartreusis reveals new insights into tunicamycin production and immunityAntimicrob. Agents Chemother. (On-line)Publisher's version: 10.1128/AAC.00130-18
Castro J. F., Razmilic V., Gomez-Escribano J. P., Andrews B., Asenjo J., Bibb M.The 'gifted' actinomycete Streptomyces leeuwenhoekiiAntonie van LeeuwenhoekPublisher's version: 10.1007/s10482-018-1034-8
O'Rourke S., Widdick D., Bibb M.A novel mechanism of immunity controls the onset of cinnamycin biosynthesis in Streptomyces cinnamoneus DSM 40646.Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology (44)Publisher's version: 10.1007/s10295-016-1869-9