Biology & Biotechnology

This research project will investigate the role of microbial interactions and how they affect chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn's disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome, which together are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Grant Title: Bacillus subtilis as a Probiotic and Its Role in Microbial Colonization and Implications for Microbiota and Inflammatory Disorders”

Principal Investigator: Reeta Rao, Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology

Funding Amount: $361,258 Over Three Years

Award Date: May 1, 2018

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (NIH)


Approximately 1.6 million Americans, including 80,000 children, suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In recent years, this number has grown at an alarming rate, with 70,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone. IBD is thought to be caused by an imbalance in the microorganisms in the intestinal tract, coupled with an inappropriate host immune response. Rao’s work will address basic questions of how beneficial bacteria, specifically Bacillus subtilis, can act as a probiotic against pathogenic microbes and maintain a healthy microbiota. Once in the gut, how do the beneficial microbes interact with other microbes and compete for limited resources, and how does the host immune system react? The work also will explore mechanisms that disrupt microbial interactions and cause devastating infections. A deep understanding of genetics, immunology, and microbiology is necessary to develop alternate and effective treatment options for IBD. Rao will have a full-time PhD student and “an army” of undergraduates working directly on the project.