My current research program focuses on three major areas:
1) Pathogenic virulence factors: I am interested in understanding how pathogenic microorganisms successfully infect and multiply in humans. Pathogens secrete a variety of macromolecules to survive within their host which manipulate the immunological response of the host in order to facilitate survival and proliferation of the pathogen. My work focuses primarily on the genus Mycobacterium, specifically M. tuberculosis, the causative agent of Tuberculosis. The main objective of this research is to understand the complex immunological host–pathogen interactions and the course of Tuberculosis by (1) elucidating the biochemical mechanisms by which Mtb proteins are involved in host signal transduction pathways, and (2) elucidating the means by which this interaction contributes to the survival and the establishment of a successful infection within the host. It is expected that the information obtained from these studies will suggest new therapeutic approaches and new targets to control bacterial infections. In addition to my work with Mtb, I also have collaborations studying Crohn’s disease/Ulcerative Colitis, malaria, cryptococcosis, and campylobacteriosis. I use state-of-the-art protein-protein interaction analyses [protein modifications, AlfaScreen technology (Perkin Elmer)], proteomics-based technologies (MALDI, iTRAQ), confocal and electron microscopy, and the design and development of synthetic antibodies (single-chain antibodies) as a potential therapy and diagnostic tool.
2) Nanomedicine: I am actively working in this emerging discipline linking Nanotechnology to Medicine. My published work in this field is on the development of silver nanoparticles, which have antimicrobial activity, embedded in medical devices such as catheters. I have also started an interdisciplinary collaboration that has designed novel chemical molecules to serve as carriers of macromolecules (proteins, toxins, radioactive material, etc.) to specific cellular targets. We are studying and developing a teleguided mechanism to securely and safely deliver macromolecules to their targets by using non harming lasers. Currently we are targeting malignant cells in prostate cancer. We also expect to develop this innovative idea for other types of cancer as well as apply it to other fields in Medicine.
3) Antibody engineering: I have worked in antibody design for the last 10 years, a technology based on the screening and selection of antibodies derived from a naïve human library. I have succeeded in selecting antibodies not only against proteins, but also against specific cell wall components of Mycobacterium species. I am collaborating with researchers from different fields in the development and application of these antibodies. For instance, I am developing a new method for determining the level of angiotensin in blood as well as an antibody to block a glial cell receptor involved in the progression of multiple sclerosis. This antibody engineering technology is innovative as it allows the selection of human antibodies with a broad spectrum of application in different disciplines.