We are delighted to welcome Professor Jose Bengoechea as in-person speaker at the Infection seminar series on Wednesday 22nd November at 11am.
The seminar will be in the Michael Smith lecture theatre and are also broadcasted via Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/99620144890
Dr Jose Bengoechea is Professor of Molecular Microbiology in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Medical Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast (UK). He completed his degree in Biology and acquired further specialisation in Microbiology in the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain) during his PhD. He completed his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Prof Mikael Skurnik (Turku, Finland). In 2002, after obtaining a “Miguel Servet” tenure-track contract, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Health, Prof Bengoechea started his independent research career at University Hospital Son Dureta (Palma de Mallorca, Spain). In 2007, he earned a tenure position in the Spanish Research Council (CSIC). Dr Bengoechea joined Queen’s University Belfast in July 2013, as Professor of Molecular Microbiology. From 2016 to 2023, he was the founding Director of the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine. This purpose-built £32 M research center houses 50 groups, both basic and clinical, investigating respiratory, eye, and infectious diseases. The Institute was ranked 4th of the UK Biomedicine unit of assessment in the last national assessment of research excellence.
Prof Bengoechea is an international recognized leader in the antimicrobial resistance field with a major focus on understanding how multidrug-resistant microbes avoid immune defences. Prof Bengoechea has established a unique reputation in the study of Klebsiella pneumoniae infections. This pathogen has been singled out as an "urgent threat to human health" due to drug resistant strains. His laboratory has pioneered the study of the interplay between Klebsiella and the immune system, and research from his laboratory has provided the foundation for new treatment against this microbe, including the first-in-kind host-directed therapeutics approach.
He serves on the Editorial Boards of Infection and Immunity, and the Journal of Bacteriology. He is standing member of the Infection and Immunity Board of the Medical Research Council (UK), and UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellow panel, and of the Microbiology section of the Swedish Research Council (Sweden). He has served as core member of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK), and of the Infection and Immunity committee of the French National Research Agency. In 2023, he was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in recognition of his outstanding contributions to microbiology and to provide microbiological expertise in the service of science and the public.
Antibiotic resistance is a pandemic claiming more than 750,000 deaths per year. Klebsiella pneumoniae exemplifies the threat of this pandemic by the increasing number of strains resistant to fluoroquinolones, third-generation cephalosporins, aminoglycosides, and even carbapenems. These infections are associated with high mortality rates and prolonged hospitalization. Not surprisingly, the World Health Organization includes K. pneumoniae in the “critical” group of pathogens for which new therapeutics are urgently needed. Less obvious but critical for pathogenesis are K. pneumoniae adaptations to the human immune system allowing the pathogen to flourish in human tissues such as the airways. This is an aspect often overlooked because K. pneumoniae is not considered a pathogen able to manipulate the host cells because it does not encode type III or IV secretion systems known to deliver effectors into immune cells, or any of the toxins affecting cell biology.
Here, I will present the research models leverage by the Bengoechea laboratory to dissect the infection biology of K. pneumoniae. Particularly, I will focus on the K. pneumoniae-macrophage interface in vivo. I will describe how the pathogen rewires these cells to overcome host restriction during pneumonia. And I will present data illustrating the potential of inhibiting this virulence strategy to control Klebsiella infections in vivo.