ChemBio seminar by Prof. Emily Balskus - CH-635


Event details

Date 09.12.2022
Hour 16:1517:30
Speaker Prof. Emily Balskus
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English
Title: Deciphering the human microbiome with chemistry

The human body is colonized by trillions of microorganisms that exert a profound influence on human biology, in part by providing functional capabilities that extend beyond those of host cells. In particular, there is growing evidence linking chemical processes carried out by the human gut microbiome to diseases such as colorectal cancer. However, we still do not understand the vast majority of the molecular mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. Major obstacles faced in surmounting this knowledge gap include the difficulty linking functions associated with the human gut microbiota to specific microbial enzymes and the challenge of controlling these activities in complex microbial communities. This talk will discuss my lab’s efforts to characterize gut microbial metabolic activities that are linked to colorectal cancer, including a gut microbial genotoxin called colibactin. Gaining a molecular understanding of cancer-associated gut microbial activities will not only help to elucidate the mechanisms by which these organisms contribute to carcinogenesis but should also enable efforts to treat and prevent disease by manipulating this microbial community.

Speaker's biography:
Emily is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she first became interested in chemistry as a high school student. She graduated from Williams College in 2002 as valedictorian with highest honors in chemistry. After spending a year at the University of Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar in the lab of Prof. Steven Ley, she pursued graduate studies in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) at Harvard University, receiving her PhD in 2008. Her graduate work with Prof. Eric Jacobsen focused on the development of asymmetric catalytic transformations and their application in the total synthesis of complex molecules. From 2008–2011 she was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School in the lab of Prof. Christopher T. Walsh. Her research in the Walsh lab involved elucidating and characterizing biosynthetic pathways for the production of small molecule sunscreens by photosynthetic bacteria. She also received training in microbial ecology and environmental microbiology as a member of the Microbial Diversity Summer Course at the Marine Biology Lab at Woods Hole during the summer of 2009.
Emily joined the CCB faculty in 2011 and is currently a Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. She is also an Associate Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, a Faculty Associate of the Microbial Sciences Initiative at Harvard, a member of the Harvard Digestive Diseases Center, and a member of the MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics. Her independent research has been recognized with multiple awards, including the 2011 Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research, the 2012 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, and the 2013 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering. She was selected as one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 in 2014 and in 2016 was named an HHMI-Gates Faculty Scholar.

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Practical information

  • Informed public
  • Free