Bacteria ‘Invest’ Their Resources To Seek Evolutionary Success

Bacteria ‘Invest’ Their Resources To Seek Evolutionary Success

August 2, 2013

Researchers have recreated and analyzed the complex interplay between bacterial investment strategies and their outcomes for the first time. Asian Scientist (Aug. 2, 2013) – The complex interplay between bacterial investment strategies and their outcomes has been recreated and analyzed for the first time by researchers in Australia and the UK. Since the 1960s, theories have been floated on how decision-making by organisms is related to their survival on one hand or to rapid growth on the other. It is not possible to do both simultaneously because of insufficient resources. Bacteria, like humans, have limited resources and are constantly faced with decisions on how to invest in their future. In their study, published in Ecology Letters, the researchers developed a mathematical model to predict the best way for bacteria to invest resources in a trade-off between growth and stress resistance. The researchers modeled how, like humans investing in cash, bacteria trade in costly proteins to reduce their stress levels or to increase consumption and so grow faster. Evolution can be seen as a decision making process where different choices are encoded in the genes. Each bacterium makes an investment decision; the bad investors fall by the wayside, the good ones survive.“The breakthrough was in using synthetic biology to create identical bacteria but with fixed investment strategies, some investing in growth, some in stress resistance and others in both to various degrees,” said Dr Tom Ferenci, a co-author of the study.

“This is the cleanest system yet that precisely defines a relationship between traded objects in a living ‘market’ and permits the testing of strategies in many different environments.”

Using synthetic biology coupled with mathematical models, the researchers were able to prove the theory that the decision-making process involves trade-offs that give biological investors different niches to exploit.

“With our engineered organisms it has been possible to subject them to a range of different environments with different stresses and growth conditions. We could precisely define, for the first time, the exact nature of bacterial trade-offs,” said Dr Ferenci.

“Of course the precise control of trade-off properties now possible with bacteria is not feasible with other complex trade-offs such as in economics and national economies.”

“Nevertheless, the information this model gives us about trade-offs and their subtleties will certainly be relevant to researchers in economics, finance and business strategy.”

The article can be found at: Maharjan et al. (2013) The Form Of A Trade-Off Determines The Response To Competition.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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