David AuCoin

As a graduate student and postdoctoral researcher, I spent eight years studying herpes viral replication and egress. Since then, I have devoted the last 17 years developing antibody-based diagnostics and therapeutics for infectious diseases. Specifically, one of my areas of focus is targeting secreted microbial antigens for diagnosis. Secreted antigens make ideal targets for direct detection and diagnosis of acute microbial infections. My laboratory has developed novel strategies that have allowed for the identification of secreted/shed antigens or “biomarkers”. Following identification of candidate biomarkers, large panels of high affinity monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are generated and selection of optimal pairs for capture and detection is performed. The panels of mAbs are fully evaluated by determining subclass/subtype, affinity, and binding characteristics. Some of the current projects in my laboratory include development prototype diagnostics for melioidosis, Lyme disease, leptospirosis, Rift Valley fever, tularemia, viral hepatitis, and Ebola virus disease. Each of these projects involves identification of biomarkers secreted or expressed by each microbe and development of mAb libraries targeting each biomarker. Total funding to my laboratory over the previous 10 years has totaled roughly $12M, mainly from the National Institute of Health and the Department of Defense. Throughout the course of my research career, I have had the privilege to advice 56 trainees, ranging from undergraduates though post-doctoral fellows.

Steve Frese

Dr. Frese’s research is centered on the human gut microbiome and its inhabitants. Our work at the University of Nevada, Reno examines how diet, food science, and biotechnology can be leveraged to meaningfully improve human health and nutrition.

Helen J. Wing

Helen J. Wing is an Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She obtained her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Birmingham (UK) in 1997, where she studied transcriptional gene regulation in Escherichia coli. She worked with both Prof. Stephen J.W. Busby and Prof. John R. Guest in her first post-doctoral position, where she employed biochemical approaches to study transcription. In 2000, Helen moved to the U.S. to take a post-doctoral position with Marcia B. Goldberg M.D. at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. It was here that she became interested in the transcriptional regulation of Shigella virulence genes and antimicrobial peptides. She joined the faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2005.
The primary focus of my research laboratory is virulence gene expression in the bacterial pathogen Shigella flexneri, the causal agent of bacillary dysentery, which is estimated to kill over 1 million people each year. All four species of Shigella harbor a large virulence plasmid, which carries most of the genes required to cause disease in the human host, including those required for invasion, type III secretion and actin-based motility, a process that allows bacteria to spread from one human cell to another. We are interested in the environmental cues, the timing and the molecular events that trigger the expression of virulence genes. We are particularly interested in the complex interplay between nucleoid structuring proteins, proteins that facilitate the packaging of DNA into tiny cells, and the transcriptional regulators of virulence in Shigella VirF and VirB.