Public Release:  OU microbiologists elected as fellows in the American Academy of Microbiology

University of Oklahoma

Two University of Oklahoma microbiology professors are among a national group of 87 newly elected fellows in the American Academy of Microbiology. Rodney K. Tweten, OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, and Tyrell Conway, OU Norman Campus, were elected through a highly-selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

Tweten, George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the OU College of Medicine, is nationally and internationally noted as a pioneer in research of bacterial toxins, the cholestral-dependent cytolysins (CDCs), a major contributor to the pathogenesis of diseases, such as streptococcus pneumonia, staphylococcus and listeria. These diseases are especially virulent in children causing nearly a million childhood deaths annually worldwide.

Tweten is recognized as the first researcher to describe the three-dimensional crystal structure of CDCs and his research has translated to practical applications, such as the production of a vaccine candidate for S. pneumonia, which is planned to enter phase one clinical trials. Consistently funded for more than 26 years, Tweten's research is currently supported by three grants from NIH/NIAID and PATH Vaccine Solutions (Gate's Foundation). The success of his laboratory has led to one patent and two patent applications pending.

Conway, Henry Zarrow Presidential Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Botany and Microbiology, College of Arts and Sciences, serves as co-director of OU's Advanced Center for Genome Technology. Conway's research is focused on understanding how bacterial cells work, from genome to transcriptome to metabolome, their genetic circuitry and metabolic networks, the physiology of the colonized E. coli cell, how it controls its growth and competes for nutrients in the gut microbial community.

Conway's group published the first E. coli microarray experiment in 1999 and now is focused on computational aspects of high-throughput gene expression data. The research group is also exploring and characterizing the symbiotic relationship in which E. coli scavenges oxygen to generate anaerobic conditions in the intestine, which stimulates growth of anaerobes that degrade complex polysaccharides in turn releasing simple sugars that cross-feed E. coli.

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The American Academy of Microbiology is the honorific leadership group of the American Society for Microbiology. The mission of the Academy is to recognize scientific excellence, as well as foster knowledge and understanding in the microbiological sciences. More information on the Academy can be found at http://academy.asm.org.

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