Dr. Gene Godbold
Dr. Gene Godbold spends a lot of time thinking small. He’s helping Battelle use advanced genomic methods to improve our understanding of all kinds of microbes, from dangerous pathogens to oil-metabolizing bacteria. His research enables Battelle’s clients to address difficult challenges such as tracing the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations and identifying bacteria with environmental remediation potential.
Gene is a senior scientist on Battelle’s Applied Genomics team, where he focuses on bioinformatics projects in microbial genomics. He brings more than twenty years of research experience with particular expertise in the mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis, bacterial antibiotic resistance, immunology, biocuration and biochemistry. Since joining Battelle in 2002, he has also investigated problems in mammalian neuropharmacology, human performance, toxicology and immunology.
His current work in Applied Genomics is helping to advance the use of genomic methods, including Massively Parallel Processing (MPS), to study microbial populations. “The holy grail is to be able to take a biological or environmental sample, accurately identify what microbes are in it, and determine both what they are currently doing and what they could be doing by analyzing their genomes and the proteins they are expressing,” he explains. Gene’s research is helping to bring this vision closer to reality.
Whole-genome sequencing allows the entire genome of every species present in a sample to be explicated. Making sense of that data in the past has taken weeks to months of time. Using carefully curated databases of known microbial sequences, new bioinformatics technologies are able to identify the species present or their closest known relatives. These analyses enable researchers to rapidly identify sequences for specific traits such as antibiotic resistance, virulence or the ability to metabolize substances such as hydrocarbons or other chemicals. Recognizing these sequences tells us what the microbe has the potential to be able to do. Analysis of the proteins the microbe is expressing can tell us more about what it is actually doing. For example, a genomic analysis may tell researchers that a certain bacterium has the genetic potential to be able to metabolize oil. Analysis of the bacterial populations and proteins in an environmental sample can confirm whether or not oil metabolism is actually taking place.
Gene is applying these methods to study the genes for antibiotic resistance and virulence. In 2013-2014, he led the team that developed Battelle’s CRITERIOME™ software, an innovative bio-sequence characterization program that identifies the potential for drug resistance in bacteria based on their genetic sequences. Along with Dr. Boyu Yang, he holds a patent for “Custom Knowledgebases and Sequence Datasets” related to the development of the software.