Columbia University Medical Center

New Study to Uncover What Makes Bad Bacteria Tick

Image: James Gathany/CDC.

Image: James Gathany/CDC.

With a grant from the NIH, P&S systems biologists are diving into huge databases of genomes, proteins, and metabolites to find new ways to target the world’s most deadly pathogens.

The project will look at approximately 50 of the most common pathogens that cause disease in humans, including those responsible for tuberculosis, plague, and cholera. The ultimate goal is to identify potential drug targets to address antibacterial resistance, called “a major threat to human health” in a recent report from the World Health Organization.

Dennis Vitkup

Dennis Vitkup

Led by Dennis Vitkup, PhD, associate professor of systems biology and biomedical informatics, the researchers will employ a new computational method developed by the Vitkup lab to generate models of each bacterium’s metabolic networks.

Like all living organisms, bacteria use biochemical reactions to make energy from food, process essential nutrients, and remove waste products. Blocking these metabolic reactions is “a very effective way to attack the bacteria,” Dr. Vitkup says, “and systematic metabolic modeling is likely to yield multiple new targets and corresponding inhibitors.”

Learn more about the project at the Department of Systems Biology.

The project is funded by grant RO1GM079759 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

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