Joshua Blodgett, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, received a five-year, $900,500 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research related to actinomycete bacteria. This bacteria produces a majority of current antibiotics and may harbor other useful small molecules that could be revealed by activating silent genes.
Researchers believe that only a small fraction of the biosynthetic potential of actinomycete bacteria has been tapped thus far. Most of the bacteria’s biosynthetic gene clusters lack detectable metabolic products in the laboratory. This phenomenon is termed biosynthetic silence.
Blodgett is the first to systematically apply comparative metabologenomics to reveal specific molecular-genetic and metabolic causes of biosynthetic silencing. Blodgett’s new project is titled “Leveraging polycyclic tetramate macrolactam biosynthesis as a model for understanding actinobacterial metabolic silencing.” His work also offers scientific education opportunities at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels.
The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award program supports junior faculty who model the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of their organizations’ missions.