PhD Candidate, 4th Year
San Francisco, California
What sparked your interest in your current field, and what do you love about it?
I am taking a systems-level approach to identifying novel drug targets for infectious diseases (e.g. tuberculosis) and cancer. My work could result in new chemotherapies to address unmet clinical needs.
Personal research summary
How do bacteria survive the stress of infection? Over the past several years, the Dedon Lab has established a novel paradigm for the control of gene expression in the context of physiological and antibiotic stress. This model involves the enzymatic reprogramming of transfer RNAs (tRNAs) to selectively translate codon-biased mRNA transcripts and express families of proteins. Upregulated protein families coordinate during the stress response to generate a slow-growing, drug tolerant phenotype, known as persistence. Persistence, or non-heritable multidrug tolerance (MDT), presents an even greater challenge than acquired or genotypic resistance, as it underlies latent and recurrent infections by important human pathogens like Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). MTB infects roughly one-third of the world’s population as the etiologic agent of tuberculosis (TB), and represents a leading global health threat with an economic burden of more than $12Bn. However, persistent MTB remains poorly defined in human infections, and little is known about persister biology. And despite its clinical relevance, there are currently no effective means to diagnose and treat latent TB infection. I am leveraging systems-based technologies to (1) quantitatively define the mycobacterial adaptive response during the stress of infection, (2) assess the generality of the persistence phenomenon in the context of different physiological stresses, and (3) identify and validate antibiotic targets to circumvent MDT.
I view myself as both a biotech and social entrepreneur. Currently, I am pursuing unconventional drug pipelines and looking to discover novel biotherapeutics, innovating sustainable technologies for commercial agriculture, and advocating wealth generation in historically underserved U.S. communities.