Claudio’s work aims to identify novel bioactive natural products produced by fungi that have evolved in competitive environments. Filamentous fungi are a long-time source of bioactive compounds used by the food, agrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Despite this, fungi isolated from competitive environments have been relatively understudied yet have the potential to produce many bioactive secondary metabolites (SMs). One such example is Escovopsis weberi, a pathogenic filamentous fungus that has co-evolved with leaf-cutter ants, their garden fungus Leucoagaricus gongylophorus, and mutualistic Pseudonocardia bacteria. To establish itself and survive in this complex microbiome, E. weberi utilises bioactive SMs. Recent work identified some of these compounds and analysis of the genome revealed numerous additional biosynthetic gene clusters suggesting a vast array of cryptic SMs remain to be discovered. At present, many of these potentially valuable compounds are out-of-reach as no genetic tools have been developed for Escovopsis species.
Claudio’s research uses a range of molecular microbiological and chemical techniques to mine several fungal species for their specialised metabolites and investigate their ecological role and potential application in medicine and agriculture.