About Emily Balskus's Work
Microbes constitute the majority of life on Earth. Recent advances in DNA sequencing present an unparalleled opportunity to investigate the microbial world and its intersections with human health. However, the capacity to generate sequencing data has vastly outpaced the ability to understand and manipulate the biological functions it encodes. My research will enable rapid linking of DNA sequences to important microbial metabolism by taking into account a critical missing element: chemical knowledge. Combining insights from organic chemistry, biosynthesis, and microbiology, we will develop unique approaches to uncover and target disease-associated functions of the human microbiota and to find new enzymatic reactions and bioactive natural products. This work will transform our understanding of human-microbial chemical interactions, enabling fundamentally new strategies for treating disease, and reveal amazing chemical capabilities that can be harnessed for drug synthesis and discovery.