Many microbial species in the natural environment cannot survive and reproduce under standard laboratory conditions. This inability to grow under standard laboratory conditions is due to their adaptation to the natural environment. Thus, a rich repository of biological information that can be used for the development of new antibiotics, enzymes, and pharmaceuticals has remained undiscovered. 

One solution to successfully culture microbial species outside of their natural environment, is to reprogram their gene expression and induce a stem-cell like state. Consequently, microbes can be reconditioned to grow in standard laboratory conditions. Using this approach, researchers can apply the reprogramming concept to address current limitations in cultuing unidentified microbial species for both research and commercial purposes. 

Technology Overview

Researchers at Northeastern have discovered that microbes can undergo a stage of dormancy similar to plants and animals, a period in which they forget the initial environment that they were adapted to and can be dedifferentiated and redifferentiated. Based on this finding, they devised a method by which they render dormancy in samples of microbes containing unknown species, followed by dedifferentiation and redifferentiation in the selected cultural environment. In this method, a stress factor such as nutrient depletion is applied to the microbial species in the desired cultural environment, which leads them into dormancy; next, they are left in this stage for a period of time in a second culture medium; finally, they are again exposed to the initial culture medium, which causes their redifferentiation. This method allows the cultivation of microbial species that are currently considered to be unculturable. 


  • Novel method and device allows for culturing of previously uknown species of microbes 
  • Discovery and development of new antiobiotics, enzymes, and pharmaceuticals


  • Drug discovery 
  • Research


  • License
  • Partnering
  • Research collaboration
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
Slava Epstein