Towards the discovery of novel solutions to combat infectious diseases

The number of lives lost annually due to antimicrobial resistance is increasing, and by 2050,
is estimated to reach 10 million. I aspire to establish an independent research program
focused on validating new drug targets and identifying new drugs to combat key pathogenic
microbes responsible for human disease. In this way, I hope to help rebuild what is currently
a dangerously underdeveloped antimicrobial drug discovery pipeline. Primarily, my research
has and will continue to focus on two of the ‘big three’ infectious diseases – malaria (caused
by Plasmodium parasites) and tuberculosis (TB, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis),
which claimed 0.4 and 1.4 million lives worldwide, respectively, in 2019 alone. In this
presentation, I will demonstrate how I am taking a multi-level approach to discover drug
targets, specifically through learning from successful antimicrobials and uncovering microbial
dependencies critical within the relevant host environment. I will also show the various
approaches I am using to discover new drugs, which include (i) drug repurposing and (ii)
fragment-based drug discovery, an approach by which inhibitors are iteratively built from
small chemical fragments using protein structures to guide the process. I combine protein
biophysics and biochemistry, structural biology, cell and molecular biology, and cellular
biochemistry, to achieve a holistic understanding of drug targets and their interactions with
ligands. The research is both fundamental and translational.