Projects

We live in a 3D world!

We use our chemical cartography approach to understand the context of disease development, by investigating the chemical interplay between mammalian hosts, their environment and microorganisms in 3D.  Using mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, combined with big data statistical tools and three-dimensional modeling, we place molecules in their spatial context and link them to microbial community composition and human health. This approach helps us determine how a given micro-environment influences pathogen tropism , how the local microbiome is reshaped by drug treatment, and how we interact with our environment, with many other exciting possible applications! We then use this information to guide rational drug and vaccine development and changes in health practices, so that our discoveries can be translated into applications that improve human health.

Current work focuses on:

1. Applying chemical cartography and metabolomics to understand microbiome function.  Although the role of the microbiome in health and disease is now well established, the mechanisms by which the microbiome influences health are still not fully understood.  Our 3D perspective helps us understand the changes happening locally at the site of microbial colonization, and then to connect these changes to overall health status, with a particular focus on the interaction between eukaryotic and prokaryotic compartments of the microbiome.

2. Socially-aware microbiome and metabolomics research. A major focus of our work is to ensure that the insights of microbiome and metabolomics research covers the needs of the poorest populations as well as the richest.  To do so, we apply our chemical cartography tools to neglected tropical diseases, particularly those caused by parasites.  This helps us understand how  parasites are affected by the local host micro-environment and leads us to new ways to prevent and treat parasitic diseases.

3. Spatially-resolved exposomics research.  By characterizing the relationship between building surfaces, small molecules, and the human skin, we are beginning to understand how our day-to-day lives put us in constant contact with a variety of chemicals, some of which have the potential to affect our health.

4. Translational implementations of chemical cartography. Characterizing chemical interactions between humans, their environment, and microorganisms is only the first step! We use our data to develop new sensitive diagnostic tests to assess disease severity and infection outcome.  We also explore whether modulating local signals affect pathogen tropism and disease progression, in a drug development framework.  Finally, we are also interested in using our data to develop rational immunization strategies for parasitic diseases. This is achieved in-house through our pre-clinical animal model systems, and via clinical collaborations.