There’s more than one way to make the cancer-fighting drug paclitaxel—better known as Taxol. At the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, Cairo, El-Sayed Ramadan El-Sayed, PhD, recently found a new one. As reported here earlier this year, he’s already used two fungal species to make Taxol, and now he’s developed a third.

El-Sayed and his scientific team created a new version of the endophytic fungus Epicoccum nigrum that produces a significant amount of Taxol. “This fungus was subjected to a strain improvement program using gamma-irradiation mutagenesis,” El-Sayed explains.

That generated a stable mutant that produces 40.7% more of the compound than the parent strain of this fungus. Then, by testing immobilization carriers for the spores and mycelia of the fungus, he increased the titer even more.

Compared to the Taxol produced by the parent strain of E. nigrum, El-Sayed’s team developed a mutant and production system that increased the compound’s concentration by more than 20-fold. For now, El-Sayed’s results set a record for the highest concentration of Taxol from a microbial culture from an academic lab.

This work provides another example of the value of searching nature for therapeutics. Unlocking the potential of endophytic fungi could result in the development of a simple, cost-effective, and eco-friendly platform for the production of an important anticancer drug.

Combining El-Sayed’s findings with the power of industrial pharmaceutical companies might drive the yield even higher through bioprocessing. Teamwork between academia and industry could turn many natural compounds into powerful medicines, especially for cancer.

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