We are curious to learn how bacteria work, and in figuring out ways to make bacteria (even more) useful. We have both fundamental and applied projects, and are always happy to pursue research in new and interesting directions.
How do bacteria cells know how fast they are growing?
A chemical signal synchronizes a cell’s biological engines with its growth, just as a broadcast signal synchronizes radio clocks worldwide with the rotation of the Earth. But while the radio signal is itself set by a time standard, it is unknown what sets the biological growth rate signal. We are working to identify what controls the cell-synchronizing signal to understand how it is itself set by the growth rate. Discovering the mechanism of growth rate synchronization will guide the design of new antibiotics against drug-resistant bacterial infections.
Producing antibacterial compounds in bacteria
Microbes that produce antibiotic compounds are ubiquitous. A few of these organisms are used to produce antibiotic on an industrial scale. Unfortunately for us, most antibiotic-producing microbes do not produce sufficient quantities for use in an industrial setting, and cannot be easily manipulated to increase production due to a lack of genetic engineering tools. As a result, many useful antibiotics are instead synthesized chemically, an expensive process that often generates toxic byproducts. We are interested in producing antibacterial compounds within genetically-tractable, fermenter-friendly bacterial hosts. We will overcome the obvious barrier of toxicity to the host organisms by safely deactivating antibiotic targets while maintaining the metabolic activity of the host.
Listening to a bacterial fire alarm
How plug and play is biology?