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DSM publishes DNA genome sequence of penicillin producer Penicillium chrysogenum


Major landmark in the 80 year history of Penicillin

Royal DSM N.V., the global Life Sciences and Materials Sciences company headquartered in the Netherlands, today announces that the renowned scientific journal “Nature Biotechnology” is publishing a paper in its October 2008 issue on a breakthrough analysis of the DNA sequence of the fungus Penicillium chrysogenum. The paper is the result of a major research project initiated by DSM in which seven international research groups participated.

The unraveling of the DNA sequence of Penicillium chrysogenum is a major landmark in the history of penicillin, arguably the most important drug of the 20th century and discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming 80 years ago this month.

Gerard de Reuver, President of DSM Anti-Infectives, comments: “The insights gained through this research will help DSM Anti-Infectives to improve current production methods for β-lactam antibiotics. It will also allow greater innovations in the development of production mechanisms from which our customers and the patients in need of these products will benefit too. We are committed to sustaining our world leading position in these very important pharmaceutical products”.

In order to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms by which Penicillium chrysogenum produces antibiotics, and to improve the efficiency of this organism in the fermentation processes, DSM started a research project in 2004 to determine the complete DNA sequence of Penicillium chrysogenum and to elucidate of the functions of the different genes. The project has resulted in a high-quality genome sequence of 32.2 million base pairs with 13,653 unique genes. The functions of around 6,000 of these genes could be predicted and the first functional analysis of the genome has been reported.

Scientific breakthrough
“The unraveling of the DNA sequence enables us to study the highly complex physiology of Penicillium chrysogenum”, explains Dr. Marco van den Berg, principal scientist Metabolic Engineering and Screening at DSM Anti-Infectives. “Never before has the sequence of this strain been mapped to this level or such important knowledge extracted. It is an absolute leap forward in the field of these antibiotics and it will generate many innovative development opportunities for both classical and new products. This project confirms DSM’s leading role in fungal biotechnology following last year’s publication on another production workhorse of DSM, Aspergillus niger.”

In February 2007 DSM published, also in Nature Biotechnology, a paper in which the company released the DNA sequence of the fungus Aspergillus niger, a micro-organism that DSM uses for the production of enzymes and other compounds that are mainly used in food ingredients. This research resulted in numerous patent filings by DSM and a whole range of new DSM products.

Follow-up research for the Penicllium chrysogenum project is now being carried out by DSM in collaboration with academic partners in a number of public-private partnerships in the Netherlands. This research has already resulted in several new patent filings by DSM.


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