Department: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Position: Assistant Professor
Address: Mountaintop Campus
111 Research Drive
Bethlehem, PA 18015
Areas of Research
- Antibiotic Alternatives
- Biologically Inspired Therapeutics
Our group uses chemical engineering principles to study the lipid-protein interactions involved in bacterial diseases. Cell membranes are complex structures that are naturally resistant to permeabilization by foreign objects. Pathogenic bacteria, however, have developed strategies to penetrate the membrane, allowing the bacterium itself to be internalized or delivering factors, such as secreted protein toxins, to the interior of the cell, leading to cell death. Studying these mechanisms provides insight into the pathogenic mechanisms used by the bacteria, leading to the identification of new therapeutic targets; in addition, understanding these naturally designed cell penetration mechanisms will allow us to either inhibit or mimic certain effects for the development of human therapeutics.
The work in the Brown lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms of bacterial virulence factors during disease pathogenesis, with two goals: (1) identification of targets for the prevention of bacterial diseases and (2) development of biologically inspired therapeutic agents.
Antibiotic alternatives: Antibiotic resistance has become a major medical issue that is exacerbated by the rise of antibiotic-resistant organisms and the lack of development of new antibiotic options. Our approach to this problem is to focus on the virulence factors produced by pathogenic bacteria; these factors allow the organism to settle in the host and evade the immune response. We intend to study the mechanisms of these virulence factors to identify therapeutic targets to eliminate the pathogen’s “support system,” making it vulnerable to the host immune system. In addition, because we focus only on the pathogenic organisms, this approach will not affect beneficial bacteria, providing an additional advantage over traditional antibiotics which can destroy entire microbiomes.
Biologically inspired therapeutics: Although they appear to be “simple,” bacteria have evolved numerous sophisticated mechanisms to deliver proteins and other factors to specific cells in their environment. We study these mechanisms to identify specific motifs, which we can then incorporate into the design of targeted drug delivery devices.
- Ph.D., Drexel University
- B.S., The Pennsylvania State University