April 1, John Helmann (Cornell University)
"Acclimation and Adaptation to Antibiotics:
Lessons From Bacillus subtilis"
John Helmann attended UCSC where he earned BA degrees in Chemistry and Biology (with highest honors) in 1982. He earned a Ph.D. in 1987 from the Department of Biochemistry at UC Berkeley where he studied bacterial RNA polymerase with Dr. Michael Chamberlin. From 1987 to 1990, Dr. Helmann worked as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Christopher T. Walsh (Harvard Medical School) studying the regulation of bacterial mercuric ion resistance determinants. Dr. Helmann joined the faculty at Cornell in 1990 and and was promoted to Professor in 2002. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and he currently serves as the Editor-in-chief for Molecular Microbiology.
April 15, Phil Stewart (Montana State)
"Analysis of Growth and Gene Expression in Biofilms"
A general theoretical framework for analyzing spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression within microbial biofilms is proposed and illustrated with a series of examples. The analysis is based on quantitative integration of these phenomena: 1) reaction-diffusion interactions determining the spatial concentration distributions of metabolic substrates and products, 2) microbial growth as dictated by these concentrations, 3) synthesis of particular RNA transcripts or proteins influenced by local concentrations of specified electron acceptors, nutrients, or metabolites, 4) turnover of the particular transcript or protein, and 5) advective displacement of biomass (and hence also associated transcripts or proteins) due to growth of neighboring cells. It is hypothesized that many of the complex regulatory and phenotypic behaviors of microorganisms within biofilms, and also the apparent differences between planktonic and biofilm cells, can be explained and reconciled by application of this theory.
Dr. Stewart is the Director of the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University. He is a Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering on the same campus. He received his B.S. (1982) from Rice University, and M.S. (1985) and Ph.D (1988) degrees from Stanford University, all in chemical engineering. After finishing his doctoral studies, he was a NATO postdoctoral fellow at the Institut Jacques Monod in Paris, France and a senior chemical engineer at Bechtel Environmental in San Francisco, California. He joined the faculty of Chemical Engineering at Montana State in 1991. Dr. Stewart’s research focuses on the control of detrimental microbial biofilms. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 technical publications and has directed projects for eighteen industrial sponsors. He is the recipient of an NSF Career Award and has been honored at Montana State University with both of that institution’s top faculty awards for excellence in research and scholarship.
April 29, David Schneider (Stanford University)
"Warping Disease Space to Improve Recovery From Infections"
Evolution provides two main routes a host can use to reduce the costs of infection. The first route is “resistance” and is the ability to reduce pathogen levels. We know much about resistance - most of immunology focuses on these killing mechanisms. The second route is “tolerance”, which is defined as the ability of the host to maintain its health in the presence of pathogens. For example, a tolerant host would not get very sick as pathogen levels increase. We’ve found that it is simple to manipulate both resistance and tolerance mechanisms in our model system and this provides hope for new therapies. Tolerance is not a panacea, however, as it can result in hosts carrying high levels of pathogens and therefore we need to think carefully about how resistance and tolerance can be manipulated together to increase animal health during an immune response.
David Schneider is interested in the pathogenesis of infectious disease and uses the fruit fly as a model host for viral, parasite and bacterial infections. David was raised in Ottawa Canada and attended the University of Toronto as an undergraduate. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, in Kathryn Anderson’s lab. There he studied the role of Toll signaling in Drosophila development. David followed this with a postdoc at UCSF and a position as a Whitehead Fellow where he started to look at the immune system of the fly, using the fly as a model mosquito to study vector borne diseases. Once at Stanford, he started to use the fly more generally, as a model animal to study infections. David tries to integrate all of the physiological changes occurring in a host during an infection to understand what it means to be sick and not just how a host kills a microbe.
May 6, Houra Merrikh (University of Washington)
“The Impact of Replication-Transcription Conflicts on Bacterial Genome Organization and Evolution”
Concurrent bacterial replication and transcription leads to conflicts between the two machineries. Two types of replication-transcription conflicts exist: head-on conflicts, which occur when a gene is coded for on the lagging strand, and co-directional conflicts, which occur when a gene is coded for on the leading strand of replication. Both types of encounters can result in replication stress, therefore, cells possess strategies that mitigate conflicts. We are determining both the different strategies that Bacillus subtilis uses to deal with these conflicts, and the impact of these collisions on bacterial evolution.
Dr. Merrikh received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 2009, and was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology until 2011. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Merrikh is one of the recipients of the 2013 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, which was granted in support of her ongoing work investigating the impact of replication-transcription conflicts on bacterial evolution.
May 20, Dr. Molly Schmid
"Out of Balance: Supply & Demand for New Life Scientists in the US"
There is a mismatch between the type of training that students traditionally receive in life science disciplines, and the workforce skills and knowledge needed in US bioscience firms. There are over 1.61 million employees who work in the 70K US-based bioscience firms that produce products and services related to drugs & pharmaceuticals; medical devices & equipment; research, testing & medical laboratories; agricultural feedstock & chemicals; and in bioscience-related distribution of products. However, the skills and knowledge needed by these firms are those needed in many industries - manufacturing, sales, marketing, legal, etc.
Over 85K students each year are awarded a bachelor's degree in the life sciences in the US. The majority of these students are traditionally trained, and prepared for research careers. Even in the highly research-intensive pharmaceutical industry, only 16.4% of total sales was spent on research and development in 2012, with an equivalent percentage of their employees who work in an R&D capacity.
However, the bioscience industry is unique, because the customers of bioscience firms are often specialists - physicians and surgeons, farmers, veterinarians, and technical research staff - rather than general consumers. Thus, the most competitive bioscience firms will have a work force that has dual training in business and the biological sciences. Training students only in traditional biological sciences curriculum and preparing the majority of them for research careers misses the mark.
Molly B. Schmid, Ph.D. is a Senior Counselor for TriTech Small Business Development Center, President of the Inland Empire network of the Tech Coast Angels and a member of the TCA Board of Directors. She has specific expertise in early stage biotechnology companies, stemming from her own roles in scientific management, project leadership, and business development in three biotechnology companies. Her career has been about equally split between academia and industry. She has over 30 years experience in understanding microbes and the anti-infective agents designed to control their proliferation.
She was recently Professor and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences in Claremont CA, where she taught drug discovery and entrepreneurship. Prior to KGI, she was Senior Vice President of Preclinical Programs at Affinium Pharmaceuticals in Toronto, held leadership positions at Genencor International and Microcide Pharmaceuticals, and was an Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. Dr. Schmid earned her PhD in biology from the University of Utah and her undergraduate degree in biology from SUNY Albany.