Published: June 4, 2021

hannahDr. Hannah E. Ledvina, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Aaron Whiteley’s lab in the Biochemistry Department, is a recipient of the 2021 Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Postdoctoral Fellowship. This prestigious award was first established in 1937 and aims to support cutting edge medical research at the early career level. Each year 25-30 applicants selected “from among the best young scientist” are awarded three years of funding in a rigorous, highly informed selection process conducted by the Jane Coffin Childs (JCC) Board of Scientific Advisors.

The JCC Memorial fund “has taken a broad approach to the study of cell growth and development, emphasizing the study of the basic biology and chemistry of the underlying processes.” Previous awardees include CUs own Dr. Edward Chuong (BioFrontiers and MCDB), Dr. Robert Batey (Biochemistry), and Dr. Aaron Whiteley (Biochemistry).

Prior to joining CU Boulder, Dr. Ledvina did her PhD research at the University of Washington in the lab of Dr. Joseph Mougous. There, she characterized a novel family of enzymes encoded by bacteria that can manipulate host cell membranes and promote bacterial growth. Additionally, her work revealed a previously unrecognized mechanism utilized by the pathogen Francisella tularensis during infection to obtain essential nutrients from the host. In recognition of her contributions to the field of bacterial pathogenesis, Dr. Ledvina was awarded the Helen R. Whiteley Dissertation Award.

Motivated by the desire to continue studying the molecular mechanisms underlying host-pathogen interactions, Dr. Ledvina joined the lab of Dr. Whiteley here at CU Boulder. Research in the Whiteley lab is focused on understanding the fundamental aspects of immune signaling and pathogenesis. Specifically, Dr. Ledvina is interested in the antagonist interplay between viruses and their host with the goal of uncovering novel antiviral therapeutic approaches.

Dr. Ledvina’s work funded by the JCC is focused on studying bacterial innate immune systems that defend against the viruses that invade bacteria, phages. Numerous facets of these pathways remain unknown, as do the mechanisms utilized by phages to evade immune detection. Dr. Ledvina plans to combine genetics, biochemistry, and microbiology to uncover to molecular mechanisms underlying these systems. Excitingly, bacterial immune systems are the progenitor to certain human innate immune pathways known to defend against viruses and cancer; therefore, findings from this work have the potential to be directly applicable to human health.