Dr. Libusha Kelly is an assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in both the Department of Systems & Computational Biology and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.
Joining the faculty in 2013 she is also the principal investigator of the Kelly Lab that is geared toward extracting insights into the structure and dynamics of interacting microbial populations from genomic datasets.
The work at the lab looks at the interactions between the diversity and functional capacity in natural microbial communities. These communities of microbial genomes have a great deal of diversity at the genetic level and the microbes can exchange DNA between themselves and viruses and have the ability to take DNA from other sources in their environment. These ecosystems can be considered an evolving social network with the capacity for vast change.
According to the lab’s website their big question is what enables genetic mobility, or information flow, in microbial ecosystems between sympatric bacteria, archaea, small eukaryotes and phage and how does mobile DNA contribute to the evolution of systems-level community functions?
So what does that mean to everyday life? They are looking at developing an understanding of why the same clinical intervention can lead to different outcomes in individual patients–for example why the use of an anti-cancer drug can have varying outcomes in each patient. The idea is that the microbiome inside the human “gut” may influence these outcomes.
By studying the microbes in the gut that carry enzymes that potentially metabolize drugs and cause adverse drug response in patients they hope to predict the capacity of the patients to metabolize the drugs and enable targeted manipulation of the metabolic capacity of these microbial communities in diverse environments.
Before heading up this lab Dr. Kelly completed a post-doctoral fellowship at MIT working with the marine microorganism, Prochlorococcus, and examining its metabolism as part of the community of microbes it exists in as part of its natural habit. She also worked as a bioinformatics specialist at the Stanford Human Genome Center before earning her doctorate from the University of California San Francisco in 2007.
Written by Angela Goad