Characterisation of a molecular switch: how does Factor C recognise, and change shape in response to endotoxin? Towards a sensitive synthetic endotoxin test

University of Glasgow

Past award

Student: Karen McClymont

Year Award Started: 2012

Complications in some bacterial infections can prove fatal as a result of the actions of endotoxins, derived from the components of certain bacteria. Discovering ways to detect and neutralise toxic challenges are vital to ensuring the safety of drugs, medical devices and vaccines. Horseshoe crab blood components are used for the compulsory safety testing of all pharmaceutical injectable products and medical devices. Horseshoe crab blood is used because a blood protein Factor C recognises endotoxins at an infection site and then elicits a chain of events which leads to both inactivation of the bacteria and wound healing. The detail of this process is not well understood, so will be investigated with the aim of using the knowledge gained to develop a synthetic testing system based on Factor C to provide a robust endotoxin detection test. Such properties could also form the basis for the development of future therapeutics in endotoxin-compromised patients. Producing a low-cost higher quality alternative to the existing endotoxin test to reduce both the risk of contamination and the price of drugs to the NHS and would also represent a significant advancement in medical technology.

Research area: Infections, inflammation or immunology


Dr Brian Smith
Institute of Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology
Dr Sharon Kelly
Institute of Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology

Marine Biotech Ltd.