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Brian Conlon, PhD, assistant professor in the Departmen

Brian Conlon, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, is one of nine recipients of the Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease (PATH) awards provided by the Burroughs Welcome Fund, which nurtures a diverse group of leaders in biomedical sciences to improve human health through education and research in areas of great need. These prestigious awards provide more than five years of support to accomplished early-career investigators to study pathogenesis and further understand the interplay between human and microbial biology.

“Brian is one of many talented young investigators in the department, but what stands out most to me is the elegant blend of basic microbiology and chemical biology used to target the problem of antibiotic resistance in cutting-edge model systems, said Craig Cameron, PhD, the Jeffrey Houpt Distinguished Investigator, Professor and Chair of the UNC Department of Microbiology and Immunology. “We are so very proud of him for receiving this well deserved recognition. His work on Staphylococcus aureus is truly pioneering, and we are excited to see the impact of this award on his future research contributions.”

Conlon’s research addresses a critical topic: the emergence of antibiotic resistant and antibiotic tolerant bacteria. Specifically, Conlon’s laboratory works to determine how factors during infection can cause antibiotic tolerance in S. aureus and affect outcome of antibiotic treatment. S. aureus can cause many chronic and difficult-to-treat infections such as osteomyelitis, endocarditis, and lung infections in patient of lung infection, making it very important to understand what causes antibiotic tolerance of S. aureus.

The proposal supported by the PATH award will involve the identification of S. aureus cells that are not responsive to antibiotic therapy, that are known as persister cells, during infection, and use immunomodulation to sensitize persister cells to antibiotics. Conlon hopes to use his findings to develop new ways of making persister S. aureus cells susceptible to antibiotics and reducing the severity of infection in countless patients.