Garner Wins 2012 Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research
Building a mechanistic understanding of bacterial growth
Leah M. Van Vaerenewyck
The Smith Family Award Program for Excellence in Biomedical Research, established in 1991 by Richard and Susan Smith, funds basic biomedical science that aims to achieve medical breakthroughs. The three-year, $300,000 award is highly competitive – only about 5% of proposals are funded – and generally won by new faculty members at top Massachusetts institutions (faculty members from Brown University and Yale University are also eligible).
Garner, former postdoctoral fellow in the Mitchison Lab, and current faculty member in the Departments of Systems Biology and Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard Medical School, won the 2012 Smith Family Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research. In search of a better understanding of how bacteria grow, Garner, together with two postdocs in his lab who will be funded by the award, will set out to answer three questions: 1) how the polymers that regulate growth assemble themselves; 2) how these polymers regulate peptidoglycan (PG) sacculus synthesis, cellular distribution of PG synthesis and the rate of cell growth; and 3) how short-range enzyme activity creates emergent long-range shape. The lab will use biochemical methods and high-resolution imaging to dissect the molecular assembly and growth processes. With these questions answered, it may be possible to develop new ways of addressing antibiotic-resistance in bacteria.