Arthur Prindle, PhD, assistant professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, has been honored with the Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (ECASE-Army) from the U.S Army Research Office (ARO).
Prindle is also an assistant professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and is a member of the Center for Synthetic Biology, the Robert H Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and the Simpson Querrey Institute for Epigenetics.
“I am honored and excited to be named an ECASE-Army awardee and am proud to represent Northwestern, the Feinberg School of Medicine and the Center for Synthetic Biology with this achievement. One of the amazing aspects of this award is the freedom it provides. My lab now has the freedom to explore new directions of research that might be considered too risky or preliminary by other funding mechanisms,” Prindle said.
Established in 1996, the ECASE-Army award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. The award honors the contributions of scientists and engineers in the advancement of science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) through scientific education, community outreach and public education. The White House, following recommendations from participating federal agencies, confers the awards.
“We are very fortunate to have Arthur as a member of our faculty. His cross-disciplinary studies in defining the molecular mechanisms of signaling in bacteria will have great implications not only in our dealing with these microorganisms in clinic and beyond, but also will serve as a template for understanding how eukaryotic cells may communicate with one another, and how such signaling pathways can be can harnessed for the treatment of human diseases such as cancer,” said Ali Shilatifard, PhD, the Robert Francis Furchgott Professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics.
Prindle received the award for his work on synthetic biology in microbial communities. His proposed research will explore how endogenous neurotransmitter production by biofilms, or densely packed communities of bacteria, could be engineered for strategic advances in in-field biosynthesis and sensing, including within the human gut microbiome. His laboratory’s goal is to identify the fundamental mechanisms that drive the formation of these biofilms and help them survive metabolic pressures, which may lead to new methods to overcome antibiotic resistance as well as new ways to reprogram bacteria.
“While it is known that neurotransmitter levels can be influenced by microbiome composition, mechanisms describing bacterial neurotransmitter production, sensing and transport are scarce. Identifying these genes, pathways and principles will enable basic scientific study of the role of bacterial neurotransmitters and could ultimately enable their manipulation for biomedical applications, such as detecting and potentially treating gastrointestinal and neurological diseases,” Prindle said.
Prindle’s laboratory is located at Northwestern’s Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center where his research spans engineering, genetics and human health.
Prindle was named a 2019 Pew Biomedical Scholar to study the genetic signals that prompt bacteria to migrate from densely-packed communities called biofilms, and in 2018, he was named a Packard Fellow, which includes a five-year grant from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.