Professor Douglas Mitchell was named one of "Tomorrow's PIs" among a handful of young investigators identified as leaders in the field of genomics by Genome Technology. Mitchell was recommended by Professor Gene Robinson, U of I faculty member and Director of the Institute for Genomic Biology.
Doug Mitchell loves antibiotics, but he says there must be a better way to treat disease. Mitchell is trying to develop new targets to create drugs that disrupt a pathogen's ability to produce toxins, all without affecting the beneficial microbes in the body.
His lab is focused on toxin biosynthesis, and on "understanding its mechanistic enzymology, and then devising a strategy to disrupt it." To do so, the Mitchell lab is using a genome mining and reconstitution approach to identify compounds and agents that are selective for these pathogenic mechanisms.
"The more we learn about how these enzymes that produce architecturally complex toxins function, the better we can then design specific inhibitors or set up screens to find compounds that block the ability for bugs to make those toxins," he says.
In spite of the built-in difficulty of creating new ways to undermine the effect of bad bugs in the human body, Mitchell has some specific milestone he'd like to see. "In five years, I'd like to have five new agents out there that are specific for five different pathogens. I'd like to have published on five new disease areas and have five new compounds that are specific to those pathogens," he says. "That's a pretty lofty goal. But it would be a good place to set the bar."
His team is already making progress on Streptococcus pyogenes, which causes strep throat, toxic shock syndrome, and other diseases, and it is working on compounds that may work against Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne pathogen that causes listeriosis, and compounds that could inhibit diseases such as meningitis and gonorrhea.
excerpts from "Douglas Mitchell: Do Bad Bugs Have Off Switches?" by Matt Jones, staff reporter for GenomeWeb Daily News