Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe, BSc (Hons), PhD
University of Guelph
Emma obtained her BSc (Hons) in biochemistry in 1993 from the University of London, and her PhD in molecular microbiology through an industrial partnership with the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, conferred through the Open University in 1999. Her PhD studies focused on virulence determinants of Salmonella enterica, and her postdoctoral years (Centre for Applied Microbiological Research, UK - now Public Health England and University of Calgary) expanded this work to a range of different bacterial species, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Campylobacter jejuni and eneterohemorrhagic E.coli.
In 2005, Emma won a Fellow-to-Faculty transition award through the Canadian Association of Gastroenterologists/AstraZeneca and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, that allowed her to start her independent career in Calgary in 2006. She chose to study the normal microbes of the human gut, at that time an emerging area of interest, however, she bucked the trend and instead of simply jumping on the high throughput sequencing bandwagon, she chose to also try to culture these so-called 'unculturable' microbes in order to better understand their biology. To do this, she developed a model gut system (dubbed 'Robogut') to emulate the conditions of the human gut and allow communities of microbes to grow together, as they do naturally.
Emma moved her lab and this system to the University of Guelph in late 2007, and has been a recent recipient of the John Evans Leader's Fund (through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation) that has allowed her to develop her specialist anaerobic fermentation laboratory further. She currently runs a lab of 11 people with projects that are broad in nature, but united under the banner of human microbiome research. These projects include studies of Clostridioides difficile infection, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Colorectal Cancer, and Neonatal Necrotizing Enterocolitis, and include characterizing how different food substrates affect both healthy and diseased gut microbial ecosystems.
The human gut microbiota is the collection of trillions of microbial cells that many of us don't even realize we have living inside our intestinal tracts. In recent years we have started to understand that this army of microbes plays a previously underestimated role in our health and well-being. But they are in trouble. We are starting to appreciate that modern lifestyle practices such as excess use of antimicrobials and consumption of processed foods have eroded the capabilities of our gut microbial army, with several major consequences for our health.
***Original Source: "2017 Thematic Conference", Saturday, January 14, 2017
Last Updated: February 2, 2017