César de la Fuente’s Antibiotic Resistance Research featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer
César de la Fuente, assistant professor in the Perelman School of Medicine and in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, is synthetic biologist who incorporates a computational approach into his work, attempting to engineer biological systems that can transform medical tools and therapies.
Of particular interest are antibiotics. Novel versions of these lifesaving drugs are in high demand, as bacteria constantly evolve defenses against existing ones.
De la Fuente’s methods combine this hot topic with another one: artificial intelligence and machine learning. By bringing massive computational power to bear on naturally occurring proteins that kill bacteria, De la Fuente and colleagues can test hundreds of millions of slight variations in the same experiment.
Tom Avril of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently visited De la Fuente’s lab for a closer look at this approach.
In a sense, it is a giant math problem. There are untold trillions of ways that the 20 core amino acids can be arranged into short molecular chains called peptides — more possible combinations than the number of stars in the universe — yet a fraction of 1% of those possibilities exist in nature. And just two have been turned into actual antibiotics. De la Fuente operates on the hope that somewhere among all those combinations, a new weapon is just waiting to be found.
Read more at the Philadelphia Inquirer.