Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bacterial Robotics building “bactobots” engineered to destroy skull-based tumors

August 12, 2014 at 5:55 am

Written by Meghana Keshavan

Cincinnati-based Bacterial Robotics is engineering a legion of so-called "bactobots" to do our bidding – in the fields of health care, industrial waste management and a litany of others.

It just received National Science Foundation funding to further develop its bacteria that can be used as a surgical tool. It is developing an organism that recognizes a certain type of skull-based tumor called a cholesteatoma that often leads to meningitis, brain abscess and death.

"Our goal is to inject the bactobot into the tumor, and have it recognize the tumor as a feedstock – and then destroy the tumor," CEO Jason Barkeloo said.

Code-named the Auribot, the engineered bacterium is being developed to augment current skull-based surgical practices, he said. It gives surgeons a consumable product that uses lysis to destroy residual cholesteatoma cells after the primary skull-based surgery is complete, he said.

The synthetic biology company is focused on taking natural genes – the genes that allow organisms to complete any given task in a natural setting – and move them into an "industrially robust bacteria," Barkeloo said.

"These little bacterial robots can do anything – produce biofuels, work as surgical devices, clean water – anything you can imagine a bacterium to do," Barkeloo said. "We’re working on one that strips paint off a wall."

The small company sold its first subsidiary, Pilus Energy, last year to San Diego-based Tauriga Sciences for $2.5 million. The bactobot it delivered cleans industrial customer waste.

The company’s business model involves developing these bactobots but then handing over further research and commercialization efforts to market experts.

"We’re able to launch a lot more bactobots then," Barkeloo said. "We’re not a cradle-to-grave company – maybe more of a cradle-to-diapers one."

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