Usually, mould fungi are nothing to cheer about – but now they can be used as “chemical factories”. Scientists at the Vienna University of Technology have succeeded in introducing bacterial genes into the fungus Trichoderma, so that the fungus can now produce important chemicals for the pharmaceutical industry. The raw material used by the fungus is abundant – it is chitin, which makes up the shells of crustaceans.
Viral Infections are usually treated with antiviral drugs, which are often derived from N-Acetylneuraminic acid (or NANA, for short). NANA, which can be obtained form natural sources or synthesized, is fifty times more valuable than gold – it is sold for around 2000 Euros per gram. A research team at Vienna UT, led by biotechnologist Astrid Mach-Aigner, has now found a new, eco-friendly way to produce NANA. The vast knowledge about the genetics of the fungusTrichoderma accumulated at Vienna UT over the years was crucial for the project.