Balunas Research Group

The Balunas Lab focuses on interaction-driven molecule discovery from host-microbe symbioses. We seek a fundamental understanding of how the metabolome mediates host-microbiota interactions, aiming to discover novel bioactive metabolites involved in chemical communication between eukaryotic hosts, their bacterial associates, and pathogenic organisms. Host-microbe symbioses are becoming an increasingly important focus in biomedical research as the human microbiota is now recognized as a major contributor to health and disease. Small molecule interactions in host-microbe symbioses play an essential role in the complex molecular dialogue that occurs between bacterial symbionts and their eukaryotic hosts. Given that these host-microbe symbioses have naturally evolved to select for biologically active bacteria, they provide a source of specialized metabolites likely to have potent medicinal activity and thus be poised for future preclinical drug development. By integrating biology-driven metabolomics with isolation and identification of bioactive molecules, as well as bioassay design and implementation, the Balunas Research Group is making significant discoveries in microbiome science, leading to new applications for human health and disease.