Presented by Professor Ehmke Pohl
Biotechnology is used in the production of everyday products ranging from food ingredients, to biofuels. In addition, biotechnology plays an ever increasing role in the pharmaceutical industry with applications ranging from vaccine development to detection of pathogens and the treatment of diseases. Many of the key tools of biotechnology have been discovered from viruses, however not from pathogenic viruses that infect humans but harmless bacteriophages that only infect bacteria.
Today, the vast majority of viruses have not been characterised and due to their genetic diversity, they represent the largest unexplored genetic wealth on the planet. The European Virus-X consortium, which included the Durham team, developed and employed the latest next-generation sequencing technology to discover new viral genes from extreme habitats including Icelandic hot springs and deep-sea hydrothermal vents. From this wealth several hundred gene products, or proteins have been characterised and several enzyme are currently in trials for applications ranging from protein production to the detection of pathogenic viruses including SARS-CoV-2.
Ideas for Positive Change is a new series of short talks, presented by Durham University academics. Inspired by the success of New Ideas for the New Normal in 2020, a range of world-class researchers return to Durham Book Festival to explore how we might build a more positive future.