Research Areas

The Crawford laboratory focuses on developing and systematically applying genome sequence-guided methods for the discovery of genetically encoded small molecules from mutualistic and pathogenic microorganisms. High-throughput genome sequencing of bacteria (and fungi) has revealed many highly unusual “orphan” biosynthetic gene clusters suspected of synthesizing novel, structurally diverse, and biologically active small molecules. These types of naturally produced molecules often regulate complex interactions with their animal hosts, hold a rich history of being utilized as human drugs, and serve as excellent molecular probes for identifying new drug targets for a wide variety of diseases. Using a blend of small molecule chemistry, protein biochemistry, and microbiology, the lab exploits the natural interactions between bacteria and animals to discover new molecules with signaling, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, and anticancer activities. The lab also connects these products to their underlying biosynthetic gene clusters, characterizes and engineers the biosynthetic enzymes involved in their construction, and investigates their roles in biology and medicine.