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Fungal Pathogenesis

Drs. Vincent Bruno and Mary Ann Jabra-Rizk conduct research in fungal pathogenesis at the Institute for Genome Sciences, and the UM School of Dentistry. As MMI faculty, their work provides trainees with access to a broad array of experimental approaches that include various in vivo model systems as well as a plethora of cutting edge O’mics and computational techniques developed in collaboration between the IGS and MMI faculty.

Dr. Bruno’s group combines next generation sequencing (genome and transcriptome), genetics, molecular biology and infection models to identify and characterize both fungal and host molecules that govern the interaction between fungi and the host. The particular focus of his group is pathogenic molds that cause severe pulmonary disease including Aspergillus fumigatus and fungi of the order Mucorales, which cause mucormycosis. His group has identified multiple FDA-approved cancer drugs that show strong promise to be re-purposed for the treatment of invasive fungal infections.

Dr. Jabra-Rizk’s group has three main foci: 1) the interactions between C. albicans and the bacterial species Staphylococcus aureus; 2) drug resistance and biofilm formation of Candida auris, a newly emerged, deadly fungal species that is essentially completely resistant most standard-of-care antifungal drugs; and 3) development of mouse models of periodontal disease and wound healing in order to explore the anti-inflammatory and tissue regeneration properties of the new formulation. Her group has recently developed the first pharmaceutically viable bioadhesive hydrogel formulation of histatin-5 designed for oral topical application for the prevention and treatment of oral candidiasis.

Drs. Bruno and Jabra-Rizk are currently collaborating on a project to characterize gene expression of Candida auris during infection with the hopes of developing novel therapeutics. Both faculty are founding members of the Baltimore Fungal Biology Center, a consortium of fungal researchers that include world-class fungal labs from several universities in the Greater Baltimore area including Johns Hopkins Medical School and school of Public health. Labs in the BFBC meeting monthly to discuss cutting edge developments in the broad area of fungal biology. Together, their independent and collaborative research as well as roles as leaders in the field provide MMI students with outstanding research opportunities.