Sebastian Lourido receives a Smith Family Foundation Odyssey Award
Whitehead Institute Member Sebastian Lourido has been selected as a recipient of a 2021 Odyssey Award from the Smith Family Foundation. The Award — which was created to fuel creativity and innovation in junior investigators in the basic sciences — supports high impact ideas with the potential to generate breakthroughs and drive new directions in biomedical research.
The funding will support Lourido’s studies of developmental transitions in single-cell pathogens, such as the parasites that cause malaria and toxoplasmosis.
“Caterpillars and butterflies are dramatically different manifestations of the same animals, and some single-cell pathogens similarly metamorphose between different forms to tune their biology to changing environments,” explains Lourido, who is also an assistant professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “As these pathogens move within or between the animals they infect, their shape, behavior, feeding abilities, and capacity for transmission change completely.”
Lourido’s goal is to understand the different patterns of gene expression underlying such transitions and find the genetic “master switches” orchestrating these metamorphoses.
Institute director Ruth Lehmann observes, “Understanding these developmental transitions is fundamental to uncovering how parasites infect humans. Sebastian’s research holds the promise of identifying therapeutic strategies that target these vulnerable stages in the parasite life cycle.”
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