Moving beyond microbiome-wide associations to causal microbe identification
Neil Surana is a new faculty member joining the Department of Pediatrics in the Duke University School of Medicine in August 2018. He is a physician-scientist with extensive training in microbiology, immunology, pediatrics, and infectious diseases, with a strong interest in host-microbiome interactions. During his doctoral work with Dr. Joseph St. Geme at Washington University, he elucidated mechanisms underlying the interactions between the human commensal bacterium Haemophilus influenzae and epithelial cells. During his time as a research fellow and junior faculty member at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the lab of Dr. Dennis Kasper, he continued to explore the relationships between hosts and their commensal bacteria, focusing more directly on the impact the microbiome has on the immune system. His current research innovatively integrates gnotobiotic murine models, immunology, microbiology, and characterization of the microbiota with the ultimate aim of identifying specific commensal bacteria with immunomodulatory potential and subsequent characterization of their biologic effects. As part of this research aim, he recently developed an innovative approach for identifying with high specificity organisms within the microbiome that are causally related to phenotypes of interest such as inflammatory bowel disease.