Janelle Ayres

Salk Institute Professor

In a new approach to therapeutics, Janelle Ayres studies how the body controls and repairs the collateral damage generated during interactions with bad microbes. She is taking an innovative approach grounded in mathematical and evolutionary predictions that uses the beneficial microbes that inhabit our digestive system for damage-control therapeutics. In pivotal work, Ayres showed that those damage-control mechanisms are just as important as an animal’s immune system in surviving infection. Her revelation of an entirely new set of defense mechanisms will likely lead to novel therapies that bacteria won’t be able to evolve resistance to. And because pathologies that arise during infection are similar to those created by non-infectious diseases, therapies that manipulate damage-control mechanisms could also have broader applications than antibiotics. Ultimately, by leveraging those damage-control mechanisms, Ayres aims to develop treatments for infectious and non-infectious diseases (such as pathologies associated with cancer and aging) without the need for antibiotics.