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Libusha Kelly is a microbial ecologist investigating how microbial communities contribute to human health and global ocean processes. Her work has discovered new, widespread viruses of bacteria (bacteriophages, or phages) in the oceans and characterized the role of microbes in drug metabolism in the human body. She is an associate professor of systems and computational biology and of microbiology and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
As a Radcliffe fellow, Kelly is tackling the ecology of vaginal microbes in bacterial vaginosis (BV), the most common gynecological disorder in women of childbearing age, and in health. Antibiotics, the standard treatment for BV, have a high failure rate, and we posit that this is because BV is a complex ecological phenomenon rather than a simple infection. Our investigations will reveal how phage predation and intraspecies diversity contribute to health and disease in the vagina, with implications for personalized treatment and deliberate design of microbial communities to improve health.
Kelly completed a BA in human biology at Stanford University, a PhD in computational biology with Andrej Sali at the University of California, San Francisco, and postdoctoral work with Sallie W. Chisholm at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a visiting scientist at the National Library of Medicine, delivered a George B. Saul II Lecture at Middlebury College, and is a member of the inaugural 2021 class of Google Cloud Research Innovators. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Defense.