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Long-term benefits from research into Streptomyces bacteria

Streptomyces antibiotics. Image: Andrew Davis

Many of the most important antibiotics used in hospitals around the world come from Streptomyces bacteria. They are valued by scientists because they produce a variety of ‘secondary metabolites’ – chemicals that help the bacteria prosper by inhibiting rival microbes.

Data breakout

500 Number of known species of Streptomyces bacteria
2001 Year the microbe’s genome was sequenced
£240M Estimated value of new compounds per year to UK industry

Recent discoveries have shown that Streptomyces could also be the source of new antibiotics needed to fight MRSA and other ‘super-bug’ infections that are resistant to commonly-used medicines. As well as new classes of antibiotics, other metabolites from Streptomyces might also be used as anti-cancer drugs and immunosuppressants.

BBSRC investment in Streptomyces genetics research since the 1960s has made and continues to make a significant impact on the UK economy, as well as on human and animal health. It has enabled the creation of five spinout companies founded by Streptomyces researchers, including one that was sold for £120M and another that established a £123M licensing deal.

Read the full impact evidence report:

Long-term benefits from research into Streptomyces bacteria (PDF 182KB)

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Historical account (PDF 375KB)

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UK Research and Innovation Media Office