The evolutionary battle between phages and bacteria has led to the emergence of a wide array of biological machineries, many of which have been exploited to develop key tools of molecular biology (e.g. restriction enzymes and CRISPR-Cas systems). An overarching theme of my research is to elucidate the interactions of phages with their hosts, and exploit the knowledge gained to develop tools that can directly impact human health.
One focus of our work is CRISPR-Cas systems, which are one of the most widespread anti-phage bacterial defence systems. They have been developed into powerful site-specific genome editing technologies, holding the promise of curing human genetic diseases.
Our group discovered and characterized the first inhibitors of CRISPR -Cas systems, which are produced by phages to overcome bacterial CRISPR-Cas defences. We continue to investigate these “anti-CRISPRs” with the aims of discovering more of them, elucidating their mechanisms of action, and investigating their impact on the evolution of CRISPR-Cas systems.