BIOE Seminar - Dr. Matthew Biggs - Genomics-Guided Discovery of Fungicidal Bacteria

Speaker Dr. Matthew Biggs, AgBiome, Inc., Computational Biology
Date: 2/18/2020
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Location: 2310 Everitt Lab
Sponsor: Department of Bioengineering
Event Type: Seminar/Symposium


AgBiome leverages a vast collection of microbes to discover crop-protective products. We are continually refining the use of genomics to make our screening and discovery strategies more effective. We recently completed a discovery program for bacterial isolates with fungicidal activity against Colletotrichum, the causative agent of a devastating plant disease called Sorghum Anthracnose. Starting from more than 70,000 bacterial isolates, we implemented genomics-based sampling of our bacterial search space and systematic exploration of local optima. We eventually screened 1,131 strategically-selected bacterial isolates, 106 of which control Sorghum Anthracnose at greater than 70% in vitro. The protective isolates are highly diverse, representing 4 phyla and 18 genera. Furthermore, using a machine learning approach, we identified Biosynthetic Gene Clusters that are predictive of fungicidal activity and validated the predictive value of these genomic features through further in vitro screening.


Matthew Biggs earned a BS in Bioinformatics from Brigham Young University in 2012, and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Virginia in 2016, in the lab of Jason Papin. Dr. Biggs currently works as a computational biologist at AgBiome, a crop protection discovery company in the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. His research interests center around modeling and prediction of microbial phenotypes, particularly for non-model organisms.

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