Postdoc Hanh Lam awarded prestigious NIH grant

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Hanh Lam

Hanh Lam, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology (METX), has received a major grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) known as the Pathway to Independence Career Development Award, or NIH K99/R00 grant.

The grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will support Lam's ongoing research to develop novel therapeutics to combat infections caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial pathogen that is often resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Lam's work in the lab of METX Professor Victoria Auerbuch Stone uses a combination of experimental and bioinformatic approaches to target this top priority pathogen.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause over $20 billion in direct health care costs every year in the United States, with additional lost productivity valued at $35 billion. More than 2 million illnesses from antibiotic-resistant infections occur every year in the U.S., resulting in at least 23,000 deaths, and 8% of all healthcare-associated infections are caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. As many as 13% of all Pseudomonas strains are resistant to multiple classes of antibiotics, and several classes of antibiotics are no longer curative for this important pathogen.

Traditional antibiotics work by targeting bacterial structures found in both harmless bacteria and pathogens, resulting in collateral damage to the healthy microorganism community in our bodies and increasing the frequency of antibiotic resistance. One way to address the current crisis of rising antibiotic resistance is to develop novel, targeted strategies to fight pathogenic bacteria. Together with a large team of collaborators, Lam aims to identify and develop chemical compounds that target an important virulence-associated structure, called the type III secretion system, used only by pathogens such as Pseudomonas.

The K99 phase of the award will support Lam's research in the Auerbuch Stone lab at UC Santa Cruz, while the R00 phase will support her once she transitions to a tenure-track assistant professor position.