Chemical Biology, Natural Product Biosynthesis and Discovery, Antibiotic Mechanism of Action, Metabolomics, Synthetic Biology
Beijing University, B.S. , 2004; The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ph.D., 2009; Jane Coffin Child Memorial Fund Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School, 2009-2013
My research program addresses questions at the interface of chemistry and biology. In particular, we are strongly interested in natural products, bioactive small molecules made by living organisms. Natural products typically play important roles in the biology of their producers and have long been a rich source of medicines. Our laboratory utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the biosynthesis and mode of action of natural products as well as to discover new ones.
In this manner we are actively pursuing several antibiotic leads. The emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria poses a tremendous health threat. Our laboratory is focusing on natural products within underexplored classes as potential therapeutics against these drug-resistant pathogens. We combine protein chemistry, synthetic chemistry, and microbiology to study enzymatic transformations in their biosynthetic pathways and investigate their mechanisms of action and resistance. We are also interested in redesigning such pathways in order to access new natural product-based therapeutics.
The second focus of the lab is the discovery of new natural products by means of mining the microbial genome. We are seeking to unlock the hidden chemical and functional diversity within microbes that has recently been revealed by advances in genomic and metagenomic sequencing. By examining sequencing data, we can locate new natural product pathways and then activate them and characterize their products. These efforts will uncover new natural products with novel chemical structures and important biological activities, especially the ones involved in the interactions between microbes and their eukaryote hosts (both in the plant and human microbiomes). Through collaboration with microbiologist and plant biologist, we aim to understand the roles of these compounds in health and disease.