Investigating the origins, evolution, and fundamental biology of pathogens is one of our high priority research areas with extraordinary potential for immediate impact.
Example Project: E. coli outbreak
Key members of our team pioneered the new era of rapid and comprehensive characterization of new pathogens during the deadly outbreak of E. coli in Germany in 2011. That outbreak affected thousands of people, with 50 killed and nearly 1,000 suffering kidney failure from hemolytic-uremic syndrome. We collaborated with researchers from around the world to conduct DNA sequencing of the outbreak strain, along with 11 related strains, to provide the most detailed characterization of the outbreak strain and novel insights regarding the strain's evolutionary origins. Our investigative work has continued, applying state-of-the-art analytics, and we published our findings in Nature Biotechnology. We found that chemical modifications to the DNA (known as "epigenetics") of the E. coli outbreak strain play a key role in regulation of gene expression, impacting the key processes of the bacterium's reproduction and virulence. These novel insights offer promising avenues for therapy development to help prevent and treat future outbreaks.
As we've done with E. coli, we will support global health efforts by investigating major pathogens (e.g., MRSA, malaria, cholera) and drive greater understanding of every aspect of the fundamental biology, from the genome to strain evolution, host interaction, societal influence and environmental impacts. We expect our unique analytical capabilities will provide new insights and pave the way for new diagnostics, vaccine development, and treatments.
Scientists Discover Complex Gene Regulation Mechanisms in the E. Coli Pathogen Responsible for a Deadly 2011 Outbreak in Germany: Discovery of role of epigenetic modifications provides new approach to fully characterize pathogens that could help develop new treatments.