"There has been an explosion in understanding of the biology of human pathogens and my aim is to use that knowledge to make a difference in patients' lives."
I joined Genentech at the end of 2006 to start a group focused on microbial pathogenesis. Previously, I had been involved in starting interdisciplinary programs directed toward understanding the molecular basis of infectious diseases at two academic institutions, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of California, San Francisco. Genentech offered the opportunity to perform outstanding basic research and also to potentially translate these findings rapidly to improvements in patient care, a promise much harder to achieve in an academic setting. Since 2013, I have had overall responsibility for the immunology as well as the infectious disease programs.
An explosion in information about microbiology and host immunity has arisen from genomic, proteomic, metabolomic and other investigations, which has made this a particularly opportune time to investigate disease pathogenesis. Like all areas of biology, progress in understanding infection and inflammation requires interactions among scientists with diverse expertise, perspectives, and approaches. The incredibly collaborative and interactive atmosphere at Genentech attracted me immediately and is a huge benefit in our progress toward new ways of treating significant human diseases.
Genentech is an ideal place for postdocs because of the highly collaborative culture of research here, leading to many opportunities to interact with other postdocs, research associates, and scientists, with the consequent ability to explore fully many avenues of each scientific project. Postdocs have a critical role in the intellectual environment of the Infectious Diseases and Immunology Departments. Their efforts, projects, and discoveries provide many fundamental insights that can be the basis for future therapeutic discovery.
My laboratory is interested in the host-pathogen interface. One current project is to understand the contribution of bacterial secretion to the pathogenesis of infection, and we are focused now on Type VII secretion in S. aureus. A second project in the lab involves dissecting the role of autophagy in host response to intracellular pathogens, and we are particularly focused on a family of ubiquitin-binding proteins called ubiquilins, that regulate autophagy, signaling, and vesicle transport. We use a combination of host and microbial genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry to investigate these questions.