Research in the Balskus Lab:

Discovering, Understanding, and Manipulating Microbial Chemistry

The vast majority of life is microbial. Estimates place the total number of microbes on Earth at 1030; for comparison, the number of stars in the universe is estimated at 1024. Survival of these organisms in diverse habitats and complex communities requires chemical innovation, and microorganisms are continually evolving elegant chemical solutions for problems inherent to their growth and survival. Understanding microbial metabolism at the molecular level is important; metabolic functions of these organisms shape the environment, impact human health, and provide us with medicinally and industrially essential molecules.

The central goal of research in the Balskus Lab is to discover, understand, and manipulate microbial chemistry. We are developing chemically guided approaches for discovering new metabolic pathways and enzymes in microbial genome sequencing data and for elucidating biochemical functions of genes linked to important biological activities. We are also exploring strategies for altering microbial metabolism using biocompatible, non-enzymatic chemical transformations that can interface with biological pathways. This work has the potential to transform both how we use DNA sequencing data to understand biology and how we can harness biology for chemical production. 

Latest News

Speaking of Chemistry: What is the Gut Microbiome?

November 6, 2015

Chemical & Engineering News featured our lab in a short video describing our research on the impact our microbiome has on health and disease. This is part of her being named to the inaugural "Talented 12" of promising young career scientists. Congrats Balskus lab! Click here to see the video!

Experimental link to diazo biosynthesis

September 17, 2015

Abraham, Yakov, and Peng’s work on the discovery and characterization of the cremeomycin biosynthetic pathway has appeared in ChemBioChem. Our efforts established the order of events in the pathway and provided the first experimental link between a set of genes and enigmatic diazo biosynthesis. Congratulations!

Structure Elucidation Using Biosynthetic Information

August 30, 2015

Pedro and Hitomi’s work highlighting how biosynthetic information can assist in natural product structure elucidation has come out in Angewandte Chemie. Discovery and characterization of biosynthetic enzymes played a key role in solving the structures of these unusual chlorinated metabolites. Congratulations!