Biology Prof. Véronique Delesalle was awarded a $100,000 grant for her research on host-pathogen interactions. Her research, which is titled “What genetic and ecological factors determine the evolutionary path of viral pathogens as they adapt to their bacterial hosts?” was funded through a new pilot initiative, the Integrated Research-Education Grant (IREG) program, at the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation. IREG was created to support a research process that places undergraduate students alongside innovative scientists engaged in basic, fundamental research in Pennsylvania.
In this inaugural round, the Kaufman Foundation awarded $100,000 to the University of Sciences. But two additional proposals were so compelling that they were consequently reviewed and recommended for funding through The Pittsburgh Foundation. Each of the additional proposals funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation—one at the University of the Sciences and one at Gettysburg College—were awarded $100,000.
Delesalle's research investigates the interactions between bacteriophages—viruses that eat bacteria—and their bacterial hosts. What ecological and genetic factors allow a phage to jump to a new host and what factors allow them to adapt to a new host? When do bacteria become resistant to phages? In the face of increasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria, phage therapy has been proposed as an alternative to control bacterial pathogens. However, while phage-based solutions to control bacteria in food processing settings have reached the commercial stage, regulatory concerns and uncertainties about treatments using live viruses with unknown evolutionary potential complicate extending phage therapy to human medicine. This work, done with the help of her research students, will provide insight into this evolutionary potential. Learn more about Delesalle’s research.
“Not only will this grant allow us to conduct experiments we could not conduct otherwise, but it will also allow me to provide more research opportunities to more students, both in independent research and through course-based research experiences,” Delesalle said. “It will also allow me to take students to meetings—whether they present or not—and have them experience the fun of attending scientific meetings, meeting scientists whose work they have read as well as hearing talks on new subjects. This grant is also a wonderful recognition that the big risk I took seven years ago—switching my research focus to phages—was the right decision.”