Ian Liyayi was awarded an NIH F31 individual predoctoral Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases in June of 2022.
Ian is a fourth year PhD candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Alison Criss in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology. He is pursuing his PhD studies in the Microbiology Graduate program. Ian studies the obligate human bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae which causes the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea. Due to a recent upsurge in cases of gonorrhea and increases in the prevalence of antibiotic resistance, Ian notes that vaccines and new therapeutics are urgently needed. N. gonorrhoeae uses a variety of mechanisms to survive within the human host. Ian is investigating how N. gonorrhoeae overcomes nutrient metal starvation, as targeting nutrient metal acquisition systems may be a promising strategy for treating gonorrhea, given that these systems are usually conserved, are expressed during infection, and are essential for bacterial survival in vivo. Ian is focused on understanding the function of an uncharacterized protein, Ngo1049, which is expressed when N. gonorrhoeae is exposed to metal-limiting conditions, is conserved among pathogenic Neisseria, and is predicted by bioinformatic analysis to be a metal-binding transferase localized in the periplasm. He hopes that dissecting the mechanism by which this protein contributes to pathogenesis will potentially point to new therapies for antibiotic-resistant bacterium. Ian indicates that science has been a lifelong interest, and that he enjoys science because of the intellectual challenge, the ability to contribute knowledge to society and the opportunity to engage with other scientists. He notes that his graduate training has enhanced his love for bacteria so he intends to continue studying bacteria in the future.