The Vanderbilt Laboratory for Biosynthetic Studies

We study and harness the biosynthetic capabilities of living systems in order to radically accelerate the discovery of new bioactive compounds, and revolutionize how molecules are synthesized.


The vision of the VLBS is threefold. (1) Understanding the biosynthesis of biologically active natural products will enable us to engineer new natural products that will become the next generation of drugs to treat human illnesses. (2) Through studying and understanding the evolutionary mechanisms for how nature evolves bioactive natural products, we will develop new paradigms for the construction of biosynthetic pathways for compounds that are not natural products but should be, thereby transforming what are now costly and waste-generating chemical synthetic processes in to ‘green’ and inexpensive processes. (3) Discovery of new natural products from untapped ecosystems, and development of methods for their discovery will lead to new therapeutics and synergize discoveries throughout the lab. These visions are reflected in our projects incorporating methods in biochemistry, molecular biology, chemical synthesis, and microbiology.

Deconstructive Biosynthesis

Exploring the precise choreographies of life’s molecular genetic blueprints, to the enzymes they encode, to the concerted action of scores of enzymes, to manufacture secondary metabolites in vivo. By taking pathways apart, we understand them, and enable the ambitious goal putting novel pathways together.

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Constructive Biosynthesis

In applying what we have learned from the study of the blueprints of life, we can now engineer microorganisms to synthesize compounds that have value to medicine. This includes engineering microorganisms to manufacture currently “non-natural” compounds such as AIDS drugs and anticancer compounds.

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Biosynthesis for Discovery

Fully 60 – 70% of drugs used in treatment of human illness are either natural products, derived from natural products or can trace their origins to a secondary metabolite. We are exploring extreme environments, specifically caves, for biodiversity capable of producing new natural products for treating human illness.

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Principal Investigator

Brian Bachmann  is Associate Professor at the Vanderbilt University Department of Chemistry. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry from Virginia Tech, M.S. from Southern Methodist University, and Ph.D from the Johns Hopkins University.

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Group Members

The VLBS, directed by Brian Bachmann, is an interdisciplinary group of researchers with diverse backgrounds in chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology. Researchers from the VLBS have generated foundational advances in natural product biosynthesis, synthetic biology and discovery.

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Contact Us

Looking for more information? The Laboratory for Biosynthetic Studies is always on the lookout for new co-workers. Check out the instructions for applying for a position.

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