Jun 18, 2020
Vivek Mutalik is a synthetic
biologist who studies biochemical energy and uses tools to
understand how bacteria survive in their environment.
He’s currently focused on bacteriophages. He discusses
Vivek Mutalik is a research
scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the
Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division as well as the
Biological Systems and Engineering Division. He works with two key
questions: how do phages and bacteria interact and how can
scientists engineer phages.
The goals connecting these foundational and engineering aspects include using phages for microbiome work and for eliminating pathogens. He explains his work studying the genes and mechanistics of bacteriophages by first giving an overview of the vast diversity and huge number of phages. He remarks that scientists know that they are virtually everywhere on earth, yet hardly know anything about their impact.
He explains that there are
different types of phages, some that infect specific bacteria and
some that are broad spectrum, able to target lots of different
bacteria. He says that while we don’t understand how this
specificity happens and what their design rule is—the key of phage
biology—his research hopes to change this and better understand the
engineering of these phages.
His research studies the phages’ genes to understand which genes encode which function. He explains some techniques and findings in more detail and says we need to understand this foundation to manipulate the microbiome so practitioners can get rid of specific microbes, not healthy ones, with precision.