Exploring Candida auris biology
Candida auris is an emerging fungal pathogen responsible for healthcare-associated outbreaks driven by persistent colonization. We developed the genetic tools needed to make this organism tractable, and are now exploring the biology of C. auris to understand what allows this organism to contaminate hospitals and cause disease in people. We use multiple clinical isolates to understand within-species variation and potentially the selective pressures that drive the evolution of this new pathogen.
Functional Genomic Screens for Virulence Factors
Functional genomic screens use mutant collections and phenotypic screening to find genes that control interesting behavior. In fungal pathogens, interesting behavior can include regulation of virulence factors, such as filamentation, or growth in a stressful condition, such as the host. We are also interested in factors that contribute to spread and transmission of fungal pathogens. We are interested in building new functional genomic screens to provide new insight into microbial pathogenesis.
De-'ORF'-anizing Fungal Genes
Although C. albicans, C. auris, and C. neoformans are exciting human fungal pathogens, a current downside is that many open reading frames (ORFs) are still uncharacterized, and many do not have clear homologues in other organisms. We are interested in combining computational analyses of large datasets (expression data, imaging, proteomics, whole-genome sequencing, chemical genomics) with molecular genetics, cell biology, and biochemical techniques to determine the function of these uncharacterized ORFs.
Fungal Drivers of Inflammation
As genetically tractable model pathogens, Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans provide exciting opportunities to uncover fundamental aspects of eukaryotic microbial pathogenesis. Fungal pathogens can modulate pyroptosis in host cells, a specific cell-death response that has major implications for how immune cells control infections. We are interested in uncovering which fungal genes are required for this process, how they are regulated, and how we can target these processes to help clear fungal infections without driving immunopathology.