David M. Tobin - 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award Laureate
David M. Tobin, Ph.D., Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University School of Medicine, has been honored as a recipient of the 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award. These awards recognize and reward early career scientists for research excellence and potential in microbiology and infectious disease. Already Tobin has made important contributions to infectious disease therapeutics, explains Lalita Ramakrishnan, University of Washington. “His findings are changing the way we treat TB meningitis, and his work will pave the way for a whole new way to tackle TB, including drug resistant TB.”
Tobin received his Ph.D. with Cori Bargmann at the University of California, San Francisco, where he defined the role of a set of TRPV-related ion channels in C. elegans behaviors. Bargmann describes Tobin as “scholarly and deep; a star in the making. An excellent scientist, Tobin is very smart and intensely interested in his own work and related work.” After graduating, Tobin spent two and a half years living in Guatemala where he taught undergraduate classes at the national university. He became particularly interested in tuberculosis through an HIV and tuberculosis clinic he became involved with while there, and with which he continues to collaborate.
For his postdoctoral studies, Tobin joined Ramakrishnan’s laboratory at the University of Washington, where he used a zebrafish model of tuberculosis. He developed a genetic screen in zebrafish to probe the host genetic determinants of susceptibility to mycobacterial infection. Tobin found that the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory eicosanoids plays an important role in susceptibility and has applied these findings in human cohorts. A functional variant in the human gene LTA4H is associated with disease severity as well as responsiveness to adjunctive therapies for TB meningitis. “As a postdoc in Ramakrishnan’s group, Tobin was instrumental in developing a system to perform forward genetic screens in zebrafish to identify factors influencing disease by the tuberculosis bacillus,” explains nominator Raphael Valdivia, Duke University. “Tobin identified mutations associated with susceptibility to mycobacterial infection in zebrafish and defined the mechanism underlying this susceptibility. More impressively, he then showed that this information could be used to identify genetic variations in human populations that strongly correlated with susceptibility to tuberculosis and leprosy,” Valdivia continued. “These variations predicted outcomes to therapeutic intervention, which he was then able to validate in zebrafish. His study is one of the most scientifically impressive ones I have seen in the field of infectious diseases.”
In 2011, Tobin became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University. His laboratory at Duke studies the host response to mycobacterial infection using zebrafish, bacterial, and human genetics. “Tobin is at the forefront of a new field, where he will make seminal discoveries in TB pathogenesis based on real time observation of the dynamics of cellular immunity within a genetically tractable vertebrate system,” claims Valdivia. Ramakrishnan concluded, “He is one of the most intelligent, intuitive, inventive and resourceful scientists I have ever encountered. These traits, coupled with his strong humanitarian predisposition, will lead him to continue his trajectory of making ground breaking discoveries that will impact the treatment of TB and other infectious diseases.”
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Mario L. Santiago - 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award Laureate
The 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award designated for a researcher working in the area of HIV has been bestowed upon Mario L. Santiago, Ph.D., Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Colorado, Denver. Santiago is honored for his varied work in virology, from field-based HIV epidemiology studies to manipulating innate immunity in his efforts to explore innovative new ways to approach the challenge of the HIV vaccine. “Already at this early stage of his career, Santiago is demonstrating that he is one of the upcoming leaders in the field of retroviral resistance genes and their fascinating mechanisms of action,” explains Kim Hasenkrug, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID.
Santiago graduated from the University of the Philippines magna cum laude with a BS in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. He then worked on schistosome and malaria vaccines as part of the NIH-sponsored Tropical Medicine Research Center in the Philippines and on HIV-1 molecular epidemiology as a Fogarty AIDS International Research fellow at Brown University. Santiago went on to receive his Ph.D. in Microbiology under Beatrice Hahn at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he developed noninvasive methods to detect Simian Immunodeficiency Virus in wild nonhuman primates, eventually leading to the discovery of the origins of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in wild chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys, respectively. “During his tenure, he painstakingly designed, tested and optimized strategies to noninvasively screen fecal and urine samples from wild monkeys and great apes for simian immunodeficiency viruses, which aided in our breakthrough understanding of the origins of HIV-1 and HIV-2,” explains Hahn. “These findings resulted in fascinating high-profile publications and have revolutionized our perspective on the AIDS pandemic.”
After receiving his Ph.D., Santiago completed two postdoctoral fellowships, first at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, then at the Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco, where he discovered that a long-sought classical resistance gene that modulates the retrovirus-specific neutralizing antibody response known as Rfv3 corresponds to an innate immunity gene known as APOBEC3. In 2006, Santiago reached out to Hasenkrug to collaborate: “he emailed me with the hypothesis that a retroviral resistance gene that I had mapped (Rfv3), might be Apobec3. He trained briefly in my lab, learned the mouse retrovirus model very quickly, and in short order had the model working at the Gladstone Institute. He has pushed this research forward, innovating new techniques and technologies, and has opened the door to a very exciting and highly competitive research area.”
In 2009, Santiago joined the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado Denver-Anschutz Medical Campus. There he continues his work on the interplay between innate retroviral restriction and adaptive immunity in mice, monkeys and humans, with a conceptual focus on HIV vaccine development, host genetics of retrovirus resistance, and interferon-based antiretroviral therapy. He currently supervises a post-doctoral fellow and three graduate students from the Immunology and Microbiology programs, where he holds adjunct appointments.
Santiago’s scientific contributions have been published in prominent journals that include Science, Nature, Cell, PNAS, PLoS Pathogens, and The Journal of Virology. “Santiago’s recent work on the function of human Apobec3 has helped delineate potential genetic mechanisms behind the production of neutralizing antibodies to HIV, which are critical to preventing HIV infection,” says nominator Thomas Campbell, University of Colorado, Denver. “His research findings will help to inform the discovery of HIV drugs and vaccines.” He concludes, “Santiago's outstanding achievements attest to his creativity and collegiality, and his exceptional ability to successfully accomplish innovative, cutting-edge research in retrovirology.”
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ASM Honors High School Microbiologists at 2011 Intel Science Fair
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world’s largest high school science competition, was held May 8-13 in Los Angeles, California. Organized by the Society for Science and the Public, this fair brings together over 1,500 students from all over the world. Participants were finalists from 443 regional ISEF-affiliated science fairs held in over 65 countries and territories. More than 65,000 students get the opportunity to compete in these regional fairs each year. This is ASM’s seventh year sponsoring special prizes in microbiology at ISEF. ASM’s team of judges is Robert Gunsalus (University of California, Los Angeles), Miriam Barlow (University of California, Merced), Daniel Buckley (Cornell University), and Eric Eisenstadt (Independent Consultant).
Alexandra Wheatley (Northwest Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, NV) was awarded first place by ASM for her project, “Microbial Explorations of a New Window into the Death Valley Deep Hydrological Flow System.” She was inspired by a trip to Lehman Caves in northern Nevada after her freshman year in high school, where she was intrigued by the organisms that were able to live despite the extremes of a cave environment. For her project, Wheatley compared Nevares Spring deep well with other deep subsurface habitats to study microbial diversity, potential for novel life, and possible inter-basin flow in the Great Basin region. “Bacterial cell samples were collected using filtration and nucleic acids extracted,” she explained. “The 16S rRNA gene was amplified through polymerase chain reaction and cloned for DNA sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis of sequenced DNA showed that Nevares’ deep borehole houses an uncultured bacterium closely related (approximately 98% of 16rRNA gene) to other deep subsurface environments in geographically distant locations.” Barlow was impressed by this work: “Wheatley understood the statistical aspects of the phylogenetics programs she had used—in this respect, her knowledge exceeded that of many graduate students.” Her findings imply a possible ancestral linkage of bacteria in the deep subsurface. Wheatley received a $2,000 cash prize and a student membership to ASM.
This year’s second place laureate was Peter Yin (Ames High School, IA) for his project, “Functional Characterization of Green Tea-responsive Proteins in Escherichia coli.” Andrew Abboud (Tippecanoe High School, Tipp City, OH) received third place for his project, entitled “The Protective Effects of the Violacein Pigment against UV-C Irradiation in Chromobacterium violaceum.” Fourth place went to Francisco Orozco (Tucson Magnet High School, AZ) for “Plant Symbiotic Microfungi as Novel Forms of Cellulase and Ligninase Enzymes for Biofuel Production, a Two-Year Study.” Six fifth place prizes were also awarded:
- “Weaving Health: The Weaving of Antimicrobial Substances from the Ootheca of the Banana Spider II,” by Leonardo de Oliveira Bodo (Dante Alighieri, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
- “FIGHTING BAC!!, Phase IV: The Isolation of Anti-proliferative Phytochemicals from Cranberries to Eradicate Escherichia coli,” by Jordan Mark Grainger (Rio Rancho High School, NM)
- “Evaluating the Role of the HOG1 and ESCRT Pathways in Host/Cell Interaction and Stress Response of Candida albicans,” by David Kenneth Tang-Quan (Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Rolling Hills Estates, CA)
- “Interrupting Bacterial Conversation with Black Olive (Bucida buceras) Extracts, by Rohan Batra (American Heritage School, Plantation, FL)
- “An Eco-friendly Antifungal Agent: Leaf extract of Girardinia diversifolia,” by Diksha Gupta (Maharaja Agarsain Public School, Delhi, India)
- “Assessment of Various Organic Electron Donors for Electrical Production by Geobacter grbiciae in a Novel H-Type Microbial Fuel Cell” by Jyotishka Biswas (Hume-Fogg Academic High School, Nashville, TN) and Jiahe Gu (The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt, Nashville, TN)
|Back Row: Leonardo Bodo (5th place), Rohan Batra (5th place), Jordan Grainger (5th place), Peter Yin (2nd place),
Andrew Abboud (3rd place), David Tang-Quan (5th place)
Front Row: Robert Gunsalus (Chair of the Judging Committee), Diksha Gupta (5th place), Alexandra Wheatley (1st place),
Francsico Orozco (4th place), Jiahe Gu (5th place), Jyotishka Biswas (5th place)
“All of the projects were well done,” said Barlow. “Some students had great resources and some used kitchen supplies, but all of them were excited and smart, and thought hard about their projects. They have a fresh perspective on science, good controls and a lot of creativity.” All of the ASM winners received cash prizes and student memberships to ASM.
The Intel Science Fair is a wonderful opportunity for high school students to explore their knowledge and cultivate their enthusiasm for the sciences. “Participating in Intel ISEF has been one of my most honorable accomplishments,” Wheatley explained. “It has given me and other young adults the opportunity to meet with professionals and peers who share my area of interest. It also allowed me to see how important science and engineering is to the world. As finalists we are constantly reminded we are the future; we are encouraged to be the ones who will make the world a better place and solve the problems of today.”
2013 Raymond W. Sarber Award Undergraduate Laureate
A 2013 Raymond W. Sarber Award has been awarded to Riley Ennis, undergraduate student, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. Established in honor of Raymond W. Sarber, whose contributions to ASM have led to the growth and advancement of the Society, these awards acknowledge students at the undergraduate and predoctoral levels for excellence in research and potential.
Andrew Lee Lovering - 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award Laureate
Andrew Lee Lovering, Ph.D., School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, has received a 2012 ICAAC Young Investigator Award for his seminal work on the structural biology and biochemistry of the proteins that synthesize and modify cell walls in bacteria. Natalie Strynadka, University of British Columbia, describes the significance of Lovering’s work: “his spectacular abilities in structural biology clearly paved the way for our understanding of these important antibacterial targets which are also membrane-anchored, a hurdle that has thwarted literally decades of attempts at previous characterization by many groups worldwide.” “His protein structure work has shown how Gram positive bacteria synthesize teichoic acids, how bacterial cell walls are transglycosylated, and how enzymes of predatory bacteria partially degrade bacterial cell walls as they invade prey bacteria,” explained nominator Liz Sockett, University of Nottingham. Lovering obtained his B.Sc. in Biochemistry from Birmingham University, where he also earned his Ph.D. in Biosciences. There he used x-ray crystallography to detail the mechanism of action of two enzymes involved in cancer therapies; one a bacterial nitroreductase used in gene therapy of solid tumors, and the other a target for a cell differentiation approach tackling acute myeloid leukemia.
After graduating from Birmingham University, a postdoctoral position in Strynadka’s laboratory at the University of British Columbia introduced Lovering to the subject of antibacterial research. This led to determination of the structures of two monotopic membrane proteins involved in bacterial cell wall synthesis. One of these, S. aureus PBP2, represented the first detailed view of how bacteria catalyze the essential step of peptidoglycan polymerisation, a potentially excellent drug target. The other, S. epidermidis TagF, revealed how the Gram-positive wall polymer teichoic acid is synthesized and may form the basis for the development of antivirulents. The PBP2 publication was chosen as one of the highlights of the year by Science and C&E News.
Since establishing his own research group in 2010, Lovering’s focus has shifted to deciphering the molecular basis of bacterial predation by Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, a phenomenon that may lead to its exploitation as a “living antibiotic”. In collaboration with Sockett at the University of Nottingham, this approach has already begun to detail how the invading bacterium modifies the prey cell wall for purposes of niche formation, and also how Bdellovibrio and other bacteria hydrolyze the ubiquitous bacterial second messenger cyclic-di-GMP. “As invited speaker of the 2012 Gordon Conference on Bacterial Sensory Transduction, he described the first ever crystal structure of an HD-GYP bacterial signaling protein,” says Sockett.
“Lovering’s enthusiasm and fascination with the microbial world is always palpable. His level of insight, profound knowledge of fundamental biochemistry, and ability to see connections that others would have missed never fail to amaze me,” summarizes Klaus Fütterer, University of Birmingham. “As he builds his research group it is clear that his work will enlighten our understanding of an unusual microorganism, and his enthusiasm will inspire junior researchers in both the structural biology and microbiology communities.”
Strynadka agrees, “he is highly collegial, modest, and a natural teacher. His love of and interest in science is truly infectious—knowledge he loves to share with others. Collectively, I believe him to be a truly exceptional rising star who will continue to make fundamental advances to structural microbiology.”
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