Deputy Director for Academic Affairs, National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (2019 – Present)
Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Germany
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Otago, New Zealand
PhD Microbiology, University of Otago, New Zealand
BS Molecular Biotechnology, University of Otago, New Zealand
The Synthetic Microbiology Laboratory (SML) is focused on studying and exploiting the evolutionary arms-race between mobile genetic elements such as phages and bacteria. We take an interdisciplinary approach integrating molecular microbiology and genomics to discover and understand how bacteria defend themselves against their predators.
Prokaryotic Immune Systems. Phages constitute the most abundant biological entities in the planet and estimated to outnumber bacteria 10 to 1. The continued exposure to phage infection imposes a strong evolutionary selection pressure on bacteria to evolve antiviral strategies to promote their survival. We are currently investigating toxin-antitoxin, abortive infection, prokaryotic Argonautes and CRISPR-Cas systems from diverse bacteria. The goals of our studies are to learn how immunity is established and generated, and ultimately determine how these defense systems affect the evolution of bacteria and mobile genetic elements.
Phages as Antimicrobials. Since their discovery over 100 years ago, phages were recognized for their potential as antimicrobial agents. The administration of virulent phages to treat bacterial- borne diseases, known as phage therapy, acts with the purpose of effectively targeting and eliminating infectious bacteria by lysing it as a product of their replication. Our goal is to isolate, genetically characterize, and engineer phages as antimicrobial agents against various pathogenic bacteria.
Other projects in SML supported by DOST include the sequence-based mining of novel biosynthetic genes from uncultivable soil bacteria, and developing Cas enzymes for the rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 and TB.
Dy RL, Rigano LA, Fineran PC. Phage-based biocontrol strategies and their application in agriculture and aquaculture. Biochem Soc Trans. 2018 Dec 17;46(6):1605-1613. doi: 10.1042/BST20180178. Epub 2018 Dec 4. PMID: 30514766.
Hampton HG, Jackson SA, Fagerlund RD, Vogel AIM, Dy RL, Blower TR, Fineran PC. AbiEi Binds Cooperatively to the Type IV abiE Toxin-Antitoxin Operator Via a Positively-Charged Surface and Causes DNA Bending and Negative Autoregulation. J Mol Biol. 2018 Apr 13;430(8):1141-1156. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2018.02.022. Epub 2018 Mar 6. PMID: 29518409.
Dy RL, Richter C, Salmond GP, Fineran PC. Remarkable Mechanisms in Microbes to Resist Phage Infections. Annu Rev Virol. 2014 Nov;1(1):307-31. doi: 10.1146/annurev-virology-031413-085500. Epub 2014 Jun 27. PMID: 26958724.
Richter C, Dy RL, McKenzie RE, Watson BN, Taylor C, Chang JT, McNeil MB, Staals RH, Fineran PC. Priming in the Type I-F CRISPR-Cas system triggers strand-independent spacer acquisition, bi-directionally from the primed protospacer. Nucleic Acids Res. 2014 Jul;42(13):8516-26. doi: 10.1093/nar/gku527. Epub 2014 Jul 2. PMID: 24990370; PMCID: PMC4117759.