Baylor College of Medicine will receive a grant of up to $19.5 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health and its Genomic Centers of Infectious Diseases Program. This grant will fund Baylor research to study mucosal infection (bacteria, viruses and parasites) through the use of genomics and organoid model systems – cell-derived, in vitro 3D organ models that enable the study of biological processes.
“Incorporating genomics with novel organoid approaches will facilitate the dissection of host-pathogen-microbiome molecular relationships, potentially revealing novel therapeutic and diagnostic interventions for life-threatening infectious diseases,” said Dr. Joseph Petrosino, director of the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research and professor and interim chair of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine.
Petrosino will serve as co-principal investigator for the grant along with Dr. Richard Gibbs, Wofford Cain Chair and Professor and director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor.
They will use the grant for three projects at Baylor:
Dissecting the genomic elements that enable pathogenic bacteria to associate with the human intestinal lining, while also determining the host response to this association. Dr. Anthony Maresso, associate professor of molecular virology and microbiology, will lead this project.
In-depth sequencing of human norovirus and respiratory syncytial virus genomes and characterization of the microbiome from clinically relevant patient groups for new understanding of viral replication, evolution and pathogenesis. Three scientists will lead this project: Dr. Mary Estes, Distinguished Service Professor of molecular virology and microbiology and emeritus founding director of the Texas Medical Center Digestive Diseases Center; Dr. Robert Atmar, professor of medicine-infectious diseases; and Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and pediatrics and director of the Respiratory Virus Diagnostic Laboratory.
Identifying how the microbiome influences susceptibility and outcomes of infection with different Cryptosporidium parasite species in humans. Dr. Pablo C. Okhuysen, professor, infectious diseases, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and adjunct professor of medicine-infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr. Cynthia Chappell, professor, Center for Infectious Diseases, University of Texas School of Public Health, will lead this project.
All projects will utilize novel human organoid cultures and cutting-edge sequencing technology to comprehensively profile the cross-talk between human tissues, the pathogens that infect them, and the microbiome, which can influence disease susceptibility and/or protection. Understandings from this program will inform precision medicine-based therapeutics and diagnostics that target a broad-spectrum of mucosal infectious diseases that severely impact human health
Other researchers at Baylor College of Medicine who will be contributing significantly to the work include Sarah Blutt, Noah Shroyer, Robert Britton, Donna Muzny, Harsha Doddapaneni, Ginger Metcalf, Ricky Sucgang and Cristian Coarfa.
The work is funded by the National Institutes of Health grant number 1 U19 AI144297-01.