Speakers

Jessica C. S. Brown
University of Utah

The Brown Lab’s goal is to explain why the complex network of interactions between a host and an opportunistic pathogen only sometimes results in a stable infection. I primarily use the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans as a model system. C. neoformans causes ~1 million infections and 600,000 deaths annually, most of which occur in patients with a compromised immune system. Despite near universal environmental exposure to C. neoformans, the vast majority of people do not exhibit any adverse health consequences.

Brown Lab Website

Rebecca Butcher
University of Florida

The Butcher Research Group is interested in how organisms use small molecules to communicate information. Caenorhabditis elegans (a small roundworm) is a genetically tractable organism that relies on a fine-tuned sense of smell and taste when interacting with other members of its species and with its environment. Thus, C. elegans represents an ideal system for studying the role of environmental cues, such as pheromones and nutritional signals, in modulating development and other complex processes.

Butcher Research Group Website

Mohamed Abou Donia
Princeton University

The Donia Lab’s research interests are mainly to study the chemical and biological interactions within complex microbial communities (microbe-microbe interactions) and between microbial communities and their multicellular hosts (microbe-host interactions). In the case of marine invertebrates (e.g., sponges and ascidians) and their symbionts, these interactions can provide the host with indispensible means of chemical defense, allowing it to survive in a predator-rich environment. The lab’s ongoing efforts will not only explain fundamentals of basic biology in these systems, but will also supply a suite of biologically active small molecules that can be developed as therapeutic agents.

Donia Lab Website

Jason Kwan
UW-Madison

The Kwan lab uses culture-independent (metagenomic) sequencing and molecular biology to understand how and why bioactive small molecules are produced by bacteria. These microbes have evolved for millions of years to produce molecules that help them survive, suppress competitors or communicate in complex communities. Evolution has optimized these molecules to be active against a biological target, and hence they are a rich source of potential drug leads. Understanding the roles of bioactive molecules in the environment may aid targetted drug discovery, but there are many challenges to studying how bacteria use such evolved small molecules.

Kwan Lab Website

Roger Linington
Simon Fraser University

The Linington laboratory studies natural products science at the interface of chemistry and biology. Using a combination of analytical approaches, we aim to build platforms for the comprehensive structural and functional annotation of natural product libraries. These methods include: creating of new microbiology methods to isolate target bacterial genera from the environment; developing mass spectrometric and nuclear magnetic resonance-based metabolomics platforms for determining chemical composition of natural products mixtures;  and the creation of new informatics platforms to integrate the data from these two characterization modalities.

Linington Lab Website