Timothy D. Read, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases with Secondary Appointment in Human Genetics
I received a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of London and then studied Microbial Genetics at the University of Leicester with Prof Brian Wilkins. After completing my Ph. D. I moved across the Atlantic for my first spell at Emory, completing two doctoral fellowships in bacterial pathogenesis with Prof June Scott and Prof Monica Farley. I moved to the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), Rockville, MD, as an Assistant Investigator in 1998 and was Principal Investigator on multiple bacterial genome sequencing and comparison projects, including Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and three Chlamydia species. At my next position at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) in Rockville, I built the physical and bioinformatics infrastructure for a high-throughput genomics facility concentrating on population genomics of bacterial biothreat agents, and sequenced >100 microbial genomes from 2005 to 2009. My laboratory integrated a variety of approaches for bacterial strain differentiation including microarray resequencing, mult-locus sequence typing (MLST), bead-based pyrosequencing and sequencing by ligation technologies. I have published on microbial genomics and genetics in Science, Nature and PNAS with (by May 2009) 40+ peer-reviewed publications, several book chapters and a book co-authorship. I moved back to Emory in February 2009 to start the Emory GRA Genome Center and continue research on Infectious Disease Genomics.
My research interests center around the application of genomics technologies to understanding infectious diseases. In particular, I am interested in trying to frame the questions that only become possible to answer as new and even better instruments for generating DNA sequence information come online. Genomics for infectious disease detection and clinical diagnosis. The rapidly decreasing cost of sequencing offers the opportunity in the near future to rapidly acquire large portions of the genome sequence of pathogens, either from DNA extracted from pure cultures or directly from clinical samples (metagenomics). I am interested in applying new technologies to determine their limits of sensitivity and to develop software to extract clinically useful information from the sequence data. Bacterial Pathogen Genome Evolution. The availability of multiple high quality genomes of pathogens such as Bacillus anthracis (etiologic agent of anthrax) and its less pathogenic close relatives affords the opportunity to ask questions about the evolution of virulence in these lineages. My particular interest is the extrachromosomal elements such as plasmids and bacteriophage, and intergenic repeat sequences. These extraneous genetic entities often carry vital virulence genes (like the anthrax toxin and plague virulence genes). They are also potent factors for short term genome change, through insertion, expansion and movement in the genomes and through the selection pressure they presumably exert on the genome for resistance. I am interested to find out how (and why) pathogens evolve to infect humans. What are the species that recent ancestors of B. anthracis were infecting before they developed virulence for mammals? What are the danger signs to look for in predicting the source of new emerging diseases? A genome based understanding of pathogen evolution will be vital for interpreting genetic variation in clinical sequence data (see above). The same knowledge can also be applied to vaccine and drug target selection.
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