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New Center Wields Genome Data to Battle Bugs
can be found almost everywhere: in soil, in water, in plants and animals. But one place Stephen Lory does not want to see the bacterium is in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients.
Stephen Lory is director of the new Center for Genomic Applications and Therapeutics whose first mission is to develop therapeutics against Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cystic fibrosis patients.
Lory, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, arrived in August from the University of Washington to direct the new Center for Genomic Applications and Therapeutics (CGAT). The same week, Nature published the P. aeruginosa
genome, whichLory helped sequence. Together, those events may signal a new era in CF research.
Department chair John Mekalanos envisions CGAT as eventually taking on a variety of projects. But its first, focused mission is to "apply state-of-the-art technology in genetics, chemistry, and immunology" to eradicate P. aeruginosa in CF patients. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which helped fund the sequencing project, awarded CGAT's first grant.
The bacterium causes chronic lung infectionsthe most important cause of death in CF patients. "If we can eradicate P. aeruginosa ... they could potentially live a normal lifespan," Lory said. The bug is also notorious for opportunistic attacks on immunosuppressed patients. Moreover, said Lory, "With the genomic approach, there's a reasonable chance that a compound that works on Pseudomonas will work on other organisms."
After study at UCLA, Lory was an HMS research fellow from 1980 to 1984. He then joined the UW faculty, where he remained until this year. He studies the molecular pathogenesis of bacterial infections, particularly the expression of virulence genes in P. aeruginosa.
Collaborations with other HMS researchers will help Lory's work by "taking it to the next stage," he said. CGAT will work with the Institute for Chemistry and Cell Biology to discover inhibitors of bacterial gene products, and Lory looks forward to collaborations with HMS researchers working on P. aeruginosa and treating CF patients.
"The beautiful thing about ... CGAT will be the cross-fertilization in other fields," Mekalanos said.