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A Path to Novel Antibiotics: ΦΧ – Multum in Parvo

Thursday, September 15, 2022
6:00pm to 9:00pm
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Held at New York Athletic Club

Multum in parvo is a Latin phrase meaning "much in little." Just as Caltech is a small institution that makes enormous discoveries, microvirus ΦΧ is a bacteriophage that has many firsts.

It was in the first "phage cocktail" (circa 1920). It played a central role in the birth of molecular biology, much of which began at Caltech in the 1950s. Its tiny genome was the first to be sequenced (1977) and the first to be synthesized (2003). Additionally—and mysteriously—unlike most phage, ΦΧ encodes a simple peptide that alone is sufficient for bacterial cell lysis (breakdown of the cell membrane).

Now, Professor Clemons and his team have demonstrated the mechanism for ΦΧ's lysis gene. Their discovery has implications for the development of novel antibacterial therapies that could provide powerful new tools in in the age-old battle between humans and bacteria.

About the Speaker: Bil Clemons

Bil Clemons, the Arthur and Marian Hanisch Memorial Professor of Biochemistry, is an expert in structural biology who leads a team of researchers focused on structurally characterizing important biological systems. The Clemons Lab has two main areas of interest: the biogenesis of cell membrane proteins and chemical reactions involving carbohydrates at the membrane.

Professor Clemons received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Virginia Tech and his PhD from the University of Utah. His doctoral studies included two years as a visiting student at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, and he was a Damon Runyon Cancer Research postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. His training focused on protein biosynthesis and membrane protein structure. He has been a member of the Caltech faculty since 2006.

Among other honors, Professor Clemons's work has been recognized with an NIH Director's Pioneer Award. He is a fellow of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the National Academy of Scientists. In addition to his research contributions, he has focused on education and mentoring. As chair of the President's Diversity Council, he has provided leadership toward transforming our student population into a model for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

For more information, please contact Isabella Faith by phone at (626) 395-6392 or by email at [email protected].