"Working at Genentech has given me the opportunity to pragmatically apply my microbiome knowledge and computational biology training to collaboratively solve urgent problems in medicine."
I began my PhD journey with plans to study the human genome, but quickly became captivated by the dynamic reservoir of genetic potential inside our gut: the microbiome. Motivated to understand how our microbes influence our health, my PhD work focused on investigating the gut microbiome as a reservoir for bloodstream pathogens, as well as collaborating with researchers in Johannesburg, South Africa to profile the gut microbiome of understudied populations undergoing rapid lifestyle transition.
At Genentech, my fascination with the microbiome continues. My research leverages clinical trial data and microbiome samples to describe how gut bacteria associate with – and possibly drive -- inflammatory bowel disease, with the goal of understanding the precise interactions between humans and their commensal microbiota so that we can design better therapies.
Nat Med 24, 1809–1814 (2018).
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is complex and results at least in part from an inappropriate immune response to intestinal bacteria. There is a dire need for new, efficiacious therapies for IBD patients, and studying host-microbiome interactions may reveal new therapeutic targets.
At Genentech, my work focuses on reverse translation of gut microbiome data: using patient data and biospecimens from clinical trials to better understand disease pathophysiology. I use bioinformatic tools to analyze microbiome and clinical data from IBD patients in phase 3 trials to identify bacterial species as well as genes or pathways that associate with IBD outcomes. These associational data reveal hypotheses that can be tested experimentally, in collaboration with other gRED researchers. Together, we seek to precisely understand the mechanisms by which specific bacterial strains elicit or exacerbate gastrointestinal inflammation.