New research from Cornell scientists is exploring how human genetics impacts functions of the gut microbiome, and is expanding awareness of the role human genetics plays in shaping the microbiome. Read more about Genetics affects functions of gut microbiome
Ilana Brito uses systems biology approaches to study the transmission of bacterial and genetic components of the human microbiome. As an undergraduate at Harvard University, she double majored in Biology and Government. Given her long-standing interest in infectious disease, she traveled abroad to perform field and lab research on malaria in Mali. She then earned a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Genetics. She received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Earth Institute at Columbia University where she began studying the transmission of viral pathogens and emerging infectious disease. Ultimately, she shifted her focus to the transmission of the multitude of bacteria inhabiting the human body. To this end, she launched a large field research project in the Fiji Islands. In Eric Alm's lab at MIT, she developed methods to examine signatures of transmission in metagenomic whole genome shotgun sequencing data. She has worked with the Broad Institute and the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies.
Prof. Brito's lab pioneers systems-level methods to examine the human microbiome and horizontal gene transfer, the predominant mechanism by which pathogens acquire antibiotic resistance. The Brito Lab studies the transmission of commensal microbes between people and their environments and the health impacts of such transmission events. They employ a combination of microbial engineering, single-cell sequencing approaches, and novel computational algorithms applied to metagenomic data to better understand the relationship between human health and the microbiome.
- Brito, I L., E J Alm. 2016. "Tracking Strains in the Microbiome: Insights from Metagenomics and Models." Frontiers in Microbiology 7 (109).
- Cleary, B., Ilana Lauren Brito, K. Huang, D. Gevers, T. Shea, S. Young, E. J. Alm. 2015. "Detection of low-abundance bacterial strains in metagenomic datasets by eigengenome partitioning." Nature Biotechnology 33 (10): 1053-1060.
- Xu, L., I L. Brito, E J. Alm, P C Blainey. 2016. "Virtual microfluidics for digital quantification and single-cell sequencing." Nature methods 13 (9): 759-762.
- Brito, I L., S. Yilmaz, K. Huang, L. Xu, S D. Jupiter, A P. Jenkins, W. Naisilisili, M. Tamminen, C S. Smillie, J R. Wortman, B W. Birren, R J. Xavier, P C. Blainey, A K. Singh, D. Gevers, E J Alm. 2016. "Mobile genes in the human microbiome are structured from global to individual scales." Nature 535 (7612): 435-439.
Selected Awards and Honors
- Sloan Research Fellowship 2017
- Rainin Innovator Award 2017
- Packard Foundation Fellowship 2017
- NIH New Innovator Award 2017
- Ozy Magazine Rising Star 2016
- A.B. (Joint Degree in Biology and Government), Harvard University, 2003
- Ph.D. (Biology), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009