Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Bull, James J.
Location The University of Texas at Austin
Primary Field Evolutionary Biology
 Election Citation
Bull has pioneered two major areas of evolutionary biology: the evolution of sex determining mechanisms, and experimental molecular evolution using viruses. He has also made seminal contributions to the methodology and application of DNA sequence data for evolutionary studies and our understanding of the evolution of virulence of pathogenic microbes.
 Research Interests
Bull currently works on (i) the use of phages and phage products to treat bacterial infections, (ii) the engineering of viral genomes to achieve long term attenuation that will not revert to high virulence, and (iii) evolution of resistance to gene drive systems. The phage work uses a combination of purely in vitro studies with E. coli, Pseudomonas, Vibrio, and others to discover how best to suppress bacterial numbers with phages. Mouse infections are used to test treatment efficacy, both with phages and enzymes derived from phages. The engineering of attenuation is also done with phages, where the goal is to suppress viral fitness and then subject the engineered phages to long term growth, observing whether fitness recovers. Some genomic designs lead to effectively permanent attenuation, such that the virus would not be able to recover original fitness levels. The work on evolution of resistance to gene drive systems is in its infancy and is so far limited to population genetics models to predict the various ways that a population may evolve in response to a gene drive system that harms the population.

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