Jeff Boyd Promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure, and Receives $1,881,000 Grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

image of Jeff Boyd

Associate Professor Jeff Boyd, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, has received a grant for $1,881,000 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for his project titled “Mechanisms of cellular respiration-dependent cell lysis and its impact on biofilm formation and disassembly in Staphylococcus aureus.” This grant covers a five-year period for the project which aims to examine the environmental signals and mechanisms that influence biofilm formation and biofilm dispersal in the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, a human pathogen.

2018 Boyd Lab Group Photo
2018 Boyd Lab Group Photo

Staphylococcus aureus lives on approximately 30% of the human population asymptomatically; however, it is also a major cause of hospital and community acquired infections. In fact, it is a leading cause of infectious disease-related illness and death in the United States. It can cause infections ranging from mild skin and soft tissue infections to invasive life-threating infections. Many strains of S. aureus are resistant to numerous antibiotics that physicians may commonly prescribe. This can greatly complicate treatment of infections. The ability of S. aureus to form biofilms is thought to be a pre-requisite for disease and the dispersal of biofilms is can result in the spread of infection to other human tissues. The penultimate goal of Dr. Boyd’s research program is to decrease the disease burden of S. aureus.

For S. aureus to colonize and invade human tissues, it must successfully respond to environmental perturbations and transition between individualistic and multicellular (biofilm) behaviors. However, the regulatory, genetic, and molecular mechanisms underpinning the committed movement of planktonic (single) cells towards multicellularism and contrariwise are largely unknown. One of the major signals that S. aureus responds to is the presence or absence of oxygen. Many human tissues have low oxygen tension. Dr. Boyd’s group has found that when oxygen tension decreases, the amount of S. aureus cells found in biofilms increases. The group has also identified two global regulatory systems that sense to oxygen (cellular respiration) and alter biofilm formation. Both of these regulatory systems have been shown to be necessary for S. aureus pathogenesis, but their molecular stimuli are currently unknown. This NIH-NIAID funded grant will focus on how S. aureus senses the presence or absence oxygen, the molecular components that alter biofilm formation and dispersal, and how the detection of oxygen results in altered expression of these factors. It will also examine if small molecules can be used to trick S. aureus into thinking that oxygen is present or absent to modulate its behavior and hopefully improve infection outcomes.

Jeff Boyd in his lab
Jeff Boyd in his Lab

Dr. Jeff Boyd is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick. He trained as a NIH Fellow at the University of Wisconsin and at the University of Iowa before coming to Rutgers. His Ph.D. and undergraduate studies were conducted at the Utah State University and Iowa State University, respectively. He was recently named the young investigator of the year by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Microbiology.