Part of the show Discovering Drugs
Is it possible to create an intelligent vaccine or a drug that could evolve with the ever changing strains of the disease?
We put this question to Dr Melanie McCullagh:
Melanie - Thatís a very interesting question. Iím not sure that you would actually want a vaccine to evolve too much just in case once you set it loose in the wild you would risk some kind of a vaccine epidemic. I think what you can definitely do is apply selection pressure to the bacteria to change the types of molecules that they produce. Thatís a similar kind of concept.
Chris - I would think that probably this is going to be big business in the future. Weíre only just beginning to understand how molecules actually look. By turning this round in this way we can now start with what we want to end up with and then go back to the gene and tweak that. Thatís quite a novel thing to be doing. Probably going to be a major way of doing this in the future.
Melanie - There are some real advances in technology at the moment that I think will enable us to expand greatly what we can do with genetically engineering the bacteria that produce these polyketides. Bioticaís a very small company but I think thereís a really big area for us to build into with increasingly novel technologies as things move on.
mario asked the Naked Scientists:
Personally, I think what you suggest may well be possible, if a long way off.
I'm not so sure; bacteriophage therapy (viruses that selectively kill bacteria) is making a comeback: