I am Senior Staff Scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) and Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (HMS).
I completed my PhD degree studying biotechnology and microbiology at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Australia. I am originally a medical doctor by training; however, I have worked extensively in biotechnology, molecular biology, protein biochemistry and microbiology fields for more than ten years on various protein/enzyme projects, including working for a biotech startup company and postgraduate training at both research masters and doctoral levels.
During my research MSc study at UNSW, I had worked on a redox enzyme, a NiFe-uptake hydrogenase, produced in Cupriavidus necator H16. Three parts of that project were production and purification of the hydrogenase and its immobilization on pyrolytic graphite electrode, construction and molecular characterization of a soluble hydrogenase promoter (PSH) fusion to gfp and global gene expression study (transcriptomics) in C. necator H16 grown in heterotrophic condition.
My PhD project has centered on biochemical characterization of a reductive dehalogenase (RDase), an enzyme catalyzing reductive dechlorination of polychlorinated organic compounds, which are recalcitrant environmental pollutants and, in most cases, carcinogenic. We found and characterized the anaerobic bacteria (Dehalobacter sp. UNSWDHB), that respire chloroform (CF), in a contaminated site in Sydney and identified a respiratory RDase responsible for the reaction (as termed TmrA enzyme). In first part of my project, I carried out an extensive genomic, proteomic and transcriptomic study on the bacteria, which revealed interesting insights into its respiration and key metabolic pathways. We then had undertaken a project on production, purification and biochemical characterization of a native TmrA from wild-type bacteria that had grown anaerobically for a year. A next part of my project was to heterologously express the enzyme, which had proven to be extremely challenging for past two decades in several research labs. Recently, in the lab of Prof Leys at Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB), I have carried out a visiting fellowship project to heterologously express the protein in Bacillus megaterium cells and as a result, we have successfully obtained the first recombinant respiratory RDase. Overall, my hydrogenase and dehalogenase projects at UNSW have been a fruitful experience, resulting in nine first authored papers.
I am broadly interested in researching microbiota and immunity. My postdoctoral research focused on interactions between gut commensal/pathogenic bacteria and intestinal cells (especially enteroendocrine cells) with special focus on intestinal innate immune and metabolic responses, using Drosophila melanogaster. Recently, my research discovered a novel mechanism on how microbiota-derived acetate activates innate immune and metabolic responses of enteroendocrine cells. Additionally, I investigated quorum-sensing mediated metabolism of an intestinal pathogen Vibrio cholerae and its interaction with the host intestine.
Currently, I am working on projects studying Treg cell regulated food allergic immunity modulated by microbiota with Prof Talal Chatila.