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Enzymatic Dispersal of Biofilms by NucB

Enzymatic Dispersal of Biofilms by NucB

Ref: KT082097 / KT136749 / KT136598-W

The Challenge

Microbes have been competing with each other for approximately 3.5 billion years, and during this time have evolved exquisite mechanisms to compete with one another for resources, such as the production of antibiotics. Microbes have also evolved mechanisms to protect themselves, one of the most successful being the production of a protective layer of slime surrounding the microbial cells. These slime layers are known as a biofilm and are composed of a matrix of proteins, polysaccharides and extracellular DNA (eDNA). This protective layer protects the cells from antibiotics and biocides, as well as environmental pressures, making microbes harder to fight using conventional methods. New approaches to disrupting and dispersing biofilms are therefore urgently needed.

The Solution

We observed that a marine bacterium Bacillus licheniformis was able to secrete into its supernatant a compound, which dispersed the biofilms of other species of bacteria. This compound was isolated and identified as an enzyme, NucB, which degrades eDNA. The enzyme is adapted to breaking down eDNA within biofilms and is thus highly efficient in degrading biofilms in comparison to previously known nucleases.

NucB is a small (12 kDa), highly stable (further data on request) enzyme which is very active against a wide range of both bacterial and yeast biofilms. Since biofilms are a ubiquitous problem, NucB has the potential for application against a vast range of biofilm problems in the home, in industry, in
personal care and in medical applications.

The original concept that certain bacteria may have evolved mechanisms to disrupt the biofilms (both their own and those of competitors) was conceived by Grant Burgess and co-workers. The project was based on the initial observation that the supernatant of Bacillus licheniformis when grown under specific conditions has strong microbial biofilm dispersal properties. This activity was attributed to the production of an extra-cellular nuclease ‘NucB’. Subsequent research at Newcastle University has shown that isolated NucB is highly effective at dispersing a wide range of microbial biofilms including dental biofilms.

The Opportunity

A number of applications are being explored by the Newcastle University team including combating infections on medical devices, diagnostic methods to identify infections contained within a biofilm and wound healing.

Other major areas of commercial application are: oral healthcare applications (dental plaque prevention/removal) detergents and contact lens cleaning solutions.

We are interested in out-licensing the technology and/or identifying collaborative industrial partners.

Intellectual Property

This IP associated with the use of NucB to disperse biofilms is owned by Newcastle University and is protected by a UK granted patent and by national phase applications currently under examination in the US and Europe. In addition we have preliminary data on toxicology / safety and have developed reproducible methods for the purification and characterization of NucB.

Title: Compounds and methods for biofilm disruption and prevention
UK patent application no: GB1002396
Filing and Priority Date: 12th February 2010
Patent granted: 6th December 2011
Applicant: University of Newcastle upon Tyne


Dr Lynda Speed, Enterprise Team, Research & Enterprise Services, Newcastle University, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Framlington Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4HH, UK