WARF: P150029US02

New System for Producing Fungal Secondary Metabolites


Nancy Keller, Philipp Wiemann

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a genetic expression system that enables researchers to control the production of novel secondary metabolites in fungus.
OVERVIEWFungi produce a variety of chemical compounds called secondary metabolites that possess useful pharmaceutical properties. These compounds are invaluable platforms for developing front-line drugs. They have been harnessed to fight bacterial infections, cancer and lipid disorders among other applications (e.g., the antibiotic penicillin and the cholesterol drug lovastatin are types of secondary metabolites).

Their therapeutic potential is truly outstanding – more than half of the 1,500 fungal secondary metabolites analyzed between 1993 and 2001 have shown antibacterial, antifungal or antitumor activity. However, a majority of fungal species may have untapped potential. This is because some fungi cannot be cultured under laboratory conditions or their secondary metabolites are chemically complicated, hindering traditional synthesis methods.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have developed a new system for producing fungal secondary metabolites using test plasmids and a genetically modified strain of Aspergillus nidulans (TPMW2.3). The strain begins producing secondary metabolites when a gene promoter in the plasmid is triggered by culture conditions. This allows researchers to induce or repress production.
  • Production of secondary metabolites, fungal toxins
  • Easy genetic solution to control the production of novel secondary metabolites
  • Could produce higher yields of antifungal metabolites (by delaying gene expression until late in the growth cycle of cultured fungi)
  • A. nidulans is well known, easy to manipulate and non-pathogenic.
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTThe researchers have used the new system to produce a secondary metabolite found naturally in a different Aspergillus strain, A. terreus.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Mark Staudt at or 608-960-9845.
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