Peptides and small proteins act as critical signaling molecules facilitating microbial community and bacteria-host interactions. Their small size often leaves them overlooked in genomic studies and makes them challenging to isolate and study. We are developing principles and tools to uncover and deliver natural and synthetic peptides and small proteins that control bacterial growth and communication, and amplify beneficial host interactions. Current projects include:

Discovering synthetic peptide antibiotics

We are exploring the sequence-structure space of peptide antibiotics and how sequences with distinct antibacterial and in vivo properties are distributed across this landscape. 

Uncovering microcin diversity and function

Microcins are potent and selective small protein antibacterials used in microbial competition. However, they have been challenging to identify and only 15 have been discovered in E. coli and its close relatives. We are using new, high throughput computational and experimental screening methods to uncover and characterize the diversity of microcins across Gram-negative bacteria.

Investigating antibacterial nanobodies

Antibodies are well known for their ability to selectively bind bacteria. But the identification of directly antibacterial antibodies has been elusive. We are developing a small and single-chain class of antibodies called nanobodies to target and/or directly kill specific bacteria. We are selecting and enhancing scaffolds to support these activities and investigating potential bacterial targets.

Developing bacterial display and secretion systems

The discovery and implementation of bioactive peptides and small proteins requires advancement in computational and experimental screening. We are investigating and developing bacterial display and secretion systems to uncover and study unrecognized bioactive peptides and small proteins from across natural and synthetic space.

Designing bacteria-host interactions

We are investigating and repurposing microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions to develop bacteria that can influence human health.