Festival of chemistry

hal-in-moscow-2More than 90 students from 24 schools will take part in the Salters’ Festival of Chemistry here at the University of Brighton later this month.

The 11 to 13-year-olds will take part in hands-on, practical events including a ‘murder mystery’ which will involve students using their analytical chemistry skills. There will also be a ‘University Challenge’ to invent a new colour indicator to show how much sugar is in food products.

And Professor Hal Sosabowski, the university’s Professor of Public Understanding of Science based on our school, will provide an “explosive” lecture using liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen and solid carbon dioxide.

All students will be given individual prizes and certificates and winning teams will be awarded prizes for their schools.

The Salters’ Festivals of Chemistry are an initiative run by The Salters’ Institute which promotes the appreciation of chemistry and related sciences amongst the young, and to encourage careers in the teaching of chemistry and in the UK chemical and allied industries.

This year event on 14 June will be the festival’s twentieth appearance at the university. The festival is one of 49 taking place at universities and colleges throughout the UK and Ireland. This year, the institute is working in partnership with the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Discovering new antibiotics

Scientists at the University of Brighton are working with a team in South Korea on research that could lead to the development of new antibiotics.

Just weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron called for a worldwide cut in the unnecessary use of antibiotics and rewards for drug companies which develop new medicines to fight drug-resistant superbugs, the scientists have been studying soil bacteria which, they say, have the genetic potential to “produce tens of thousands of novel antibiotics”.

The South Korean-led study has been supported by University of Brighton scientists Professor Colin Smith and Dr Giselda Bucca in the university’s College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences.

The scientists undertook a detailed study of the activity of genes that are responsible for antibiotic production in a soil bacterium called Streptomyces. These bacteria are the major producers of antibiotics that are used worldwide to treat infections. Their study reveals how the activity of the genes for antibiotic production are controlled in the particular species of bacterium they studied – Streptomyces coelicolor – and this new knowledge, they say “suggests new ways for scientists to increase production of known antibiotics and, perhaps more importantly, to discover new antibiotics”.

Professor Smith said: “There is a critical need for developing new antibiotics because of the global rise in antibiotic resistance. Soil bacteria such as Streptomyces have the genetic potential to produce tens of thousands of novel antibiotics. However, it can be very difficult to coax them to produce these antibiotics in detectable quantities under laboratory conditions.

“The results from our study suggest how we could manipulate these bacteria to switch on production of antibiotics. This could allow us to ‘awaken’ genetic pathways for antibiotics that are not usually active outside of their natural soil environment. This, in turn, could enable us to study their properties and to scale up their production in the laboratory if they look promising as new antibiotics.”

Professor Smith and Dr Bucca are now embarking on a proof-of-concept study with the global pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to establish whether the same genetic controls operate in other Streptomyces bacteria. Professor Smith said: “If they do then this will open up new possibilities for increasing production of clinically-important antibiotics.”

The research is published in Nature Communications, find out more here.

Professor Colin Smith

Professor Colin Smith

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