Jessica Kissinger is using her expertise in biology and big data to help other scientists.
Today, the University of Georgia professor not only studies deadly pathogens like malaria and Cryptosporidium (a waterborne parasite), but also is a driving force behind worldwide, groundbreaking collaborations on novel databases. During her time at UGA, she has received nearly $40 million in federal and private grants and contracts.
These databases can crunch vast amounts of biological information at warpspeed and reveal important patterns that pave the way for new approaches to scourges such as Leishmania (common in the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe), toxoplasmosis (a systemic disease due to one of the world’s most common parasites), and Valley Fever (a fungus born on the wind that can cause lung and systemic infections). Novel drug and vaccine targets can be developed, as well as fresh insights on life-threatening pathogens.
“Fighting infections and developing new drug and vaccine targets requires detailed knowledge of a pathogen and how it functions,” explained Kissinger, a Distinguished Research Professor in UGA’s Department of Genetics, Institute of Bioinformatics and Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.
And, like internet searches, the databases are all free. Kissinger said it’s likely that pharmaceutical companies are mining some of the information in their quest to discover new therapeutic targets.
Image: Jessica Kissinger poses for a photo in the Infectious Diseases Institute in Uganda where she is currently a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.