Sid Venkatesh received a PhD in molecular virology in Dr. Paul D. Bieniasz’s laboratory at Rockefeller University, where he established biochemical and genetic approaches to probe the mechanism by which the interferon-induced membrane protein Tetherin physically traps HIV-1 and other enveloped viruses at cell surfaces. During his PhD, Sid also deciphered the origins of tetherin in modern genomes – work that exemplified the remarkable capacity of genomes to innovate critical antiviral activities following gene duplication, neofunctionalization, and genetic conflict with viral antagonist proteins. Prior to that, Sid received a PhD in chemical engineering in Dr. Mark E. Byrne’s laboratory at Auburn University, where his thesis work resulted in the development of therapeutic contact lenses that demonstrated superior loading and extended release of ocular antihistamines. He also created novel polymeric materials that were exquisitely sensitive to a variety of environmental triggers such as endonucleases, pH, and temperature.
For his postdoctoral research in Dr. Jeffrey I. Gordon’s laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis, Sid used germ-free animal models for the development of a new class of nutritional interventions that target specific underrepresented members of the gut microbiota of undernourished children. Translation of this work, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to controlled feeding trials in undernourished Bangladeshi children resulted in the identification of a lead microbiota-directed complementary food that “repaired” the gut microbial community to a state similar to that found in healthy children, and promoted growth/health status compared to those administered a ready-to-use supplementary food. Recognizing the ramifications for global public health, this work was selected as a finalist for “Breakthrough of the Year” by Science in 2019.
Sid’s long-term goals are to define general principles of molecular recognition in the gut and to elucidate mechanisms by which microbial metabolites impact human physiology and health. Using a combination of germ-free mice, bacterial strains isolated from human samples, and assays in cell lines and human organoids, he is interested in “deorphanizing” receptors in the gut, and decoding the logic for ligand detection and discrimination in our intestines. These efforts are expected to enhance our understanding of the pathophysiology underlying many disorders, and to improve human health and quality of life.
Host-microbiota interactions, germ-free animals, molecular virology, pharmacology
PhD, Virology, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY
PhD, Chemical Engineering, Auburn University, Auburn, AL