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Boyce Lab research

CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Associate Professor John Boyce

A/Prof Boyce is a group leader in the Department of Microbiology, Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University. His research is focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms of antibiotic resistance, bacterial pathogenesis and host immunity to infections. He works with a wide range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive pathogens including, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pasteurella multocida, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Dichelobacter nodosus and Clostridium perfringens. His specialty area of expertise is next generation high-throughput sequencing for bacterial genomics and transcriptomic analyses.


Our research

Current projects

1. Harnessing the type VI secretion system combat arsenal of Acinetobacter baumannii as a source of new antimicrobials.  How Acinetobacter baumannii uses its type VI secretion system to kill competitors.

Acinetobacter baumannii has been identified as one of the top three dangerous Gram-negative hospital pathogens as it can cause a range of life-threatening infections and many strains are now resistant to almost all current antibiotics. Acinetobacter baumannii strains often use a type VI secretion system for killing of competitors, which we predict is important for dominance of particular clonal lineages. We aim to understand the diversity of type VI secretion system antibacterial toxins expressed by different Acinetobacter baumannii strains, characterise the structure and function of these antibacterial toxins, determine howparticular toxins are delivered and manipulate the system for delivery of engineered proteins of our choosing.

2. Defining the mechanisms of Pasteurella multocida pathogenesis. Pasteurella multocida virulence mechanisms.

Pasteurella multocida is a Gram-negative bacterial pathogen that causes a number of different diseases in cattle, pigs and poultry, resulting in serious economic losses to food production industries worldwide. We are interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis in this bacterium with an aim to developing new, more effective and widely applicable vaccines or antimicrobial drugs. We have optimised transposon insertion site sequencing (TnSeq or TraDIS) in Pasteurella multocida and have utilised this technique to identify bacterial genes essential for growth under a number of conditions as well as for production of the primary virulence factor, capsule. We aim to extend this work to characterise all genes for infection of natural host animals, thus identifying crucial targets for therapeutic intervention.

3. Optimising antibiotic combinations to treat multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeuruginosa. Novel antibiotic combinations for improved killing of Gram-negative multi-drug resistant pathogens.

Pseudomonas aeuruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii are two of the most problematic nosocomial pathogens and many strains of both species are now multi-drug resistant. Unfortunately, no new antibiotics with activity against these Gram-negative bacteria are likely to be released in the next five years. Therefore, we aim to identify synergistic combinations of current antibiotics that have improved activity against these important pathogens. Together with collaborators at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science (Dr Cornelia Landersdorfer) and the University of Florida (Prof Juergen Bulitta), we are using in vitro and in vivo infection models, genomic and transcriptomic analysis of bacterial responses to combination therapies and novel mathematical modelling methods to identify the best antibiotic combinations and rationally optimise their dosage regimens. Novel combination therapies and regimens that improve bacterial killing and reduce emergence of resistance will be able to be rapidly moved to the clinic for improved health outcomes.

4. How small RNAs control gene expression and protein production in Gram-negative bacteria.

Small RNA molecules are crucial mediators of bacterial gene regulation. However, the range of sRNA molecules, their mechanisms of action and target genes are poorly understood. We aim to characterise the sRNAs in Acinetobacter baumannii and Pasteurella multocida and identify their target genes. We will also develop targeted inhibitors that can modulate the action of selected sRNAs. These data will be used to construct a cellular regulatory map that will inform us on crucial regulatory nodes that might be excellent targets for directed intervention.

Visit Associate Professor Boyce's Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Techniques/expertise

Whole genome sequencing
Transcriptomic analysis using RNA sequencing
Real-time RT-PCR
Proteomics techniques
Bacterial mutagenesis
Antimicrobial peptide killing assays
Carbohydrate (capsule and lipopolysaccharide) analyses
Comparative bioinformatics analysis of bacterial genomes
RNA analysis methods

Disease models

Chicken and mouse disease model for Pasteurella multocida (fowl cholera) infections.

Mouse disease model for Acinetobacter baumannii infections.


Collaborations

We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world. Some of our more significant national and international collaborators are listed below. Click on the map to see the details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

Prof Juergen Bulitta, College of Pharmacy, University of Florida
A/Prof Pat Blackall, Centre for Animal Science, University of Queensland, Australia
Dr Conny Turni, Centre for Animal Science, University of Queensland, Australia
Dr Andrew Cox, National Research Council, Ottawa, Canada
Dr Cornelia Landersdorfer, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University
A/Prof. Rod Devenish, Department of Biochemistry, Monash University


Student research projects

The Boyce Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short term research opportunities available.

Please visit Supervisor Connect to explore the projects currently available in our Lab.