Media Briefing:
The Role of the Gut Microbiome

Panelist Biographies

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon

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Dr. Jeffrey Gordon is the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Members of his lab have used gnotobiotic animal models to study the assembly, dynamic operations, functional properties, and biological effects of human gut microbial communities. They have combined these models with human studies involving twins as well as members of birth cohorts living in low-, middle-, and high-income countries. His group is focused on addressing the global health challenges of obesity and childhood undernutrition. Dr. Gordon earned an A.B. degree from Oberlin College and an M.D. degree from the University of Chicago.

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Dr. Lita Proctor

From 2010 to 2018, Dr. Lita Proctor served as coordinator of the Human Microbiome Project at the National Institutes of Health, a ten-year program to create a toolbox of widely disseminated reference datasets, computational and analytical tools, and clinical protocols for this emerging field of biomedical research. She retired in 2018 and now serves in a special volunteer capacity at the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute. Prior her role at NIH, Dr. Proctor served as program director in the National Science Foundation’s Geosciences and the Biosciences Directorates. She earned a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Stony Brook University, held a NSF Marine Biotechnology postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, and has held appointments at Florida State University and at UC-Santa Cruz.

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Dr. Anna Seekatz

Dr. Anna Seekatz is an assistant professor in the Biological Sciences Department at Clemson University. Her lab studies the interactions between infectious diseases and gut microbiota to understand how beneficial microbes function, with a focus on Clostridium difficile infection and the response of the host microbiome after fecal microbiota transplantation. Dr. Seekatz earned a B.S. in cellular and molecular biology from Western Washington University and a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Rick Weiss (moderator)

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Rick Weiss is the Director of SciLine.

He has more than three decades of experience in journalism and public affairs, including 15 years as a science reporter at the Washington Post and more than a decade leading strategic communications and media relations activities around issues of science and technology in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. While at The Post, Rick wrote more than 1,000 news and feature articles about advances in science and technology and their economic, societal, and ethical implications. His awards include the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing’s Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting and the National Association of Science Writers’ Science and Society Award.

Rick earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds a license in medical technology with the American Society for Clinical Pathology. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife Natalie Angier, the New York Times science writer and author.

Enterobacteriaceae, gram-negative rod-shaped bacteria, part of intestinal microbiome and causative agents of different infections, 3D illustration. Escherichia coli, Klebsiella, Enterobacter and other

About This Media Briefing

Growing interest in probiotics, research advances in fecal transplantation, and rising infection rates from bacteria such as C. difficile have brought the gut microbiome to the fore of public discussions and personal decisions about nutrition and health. Trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms inhabit our bodies—together influencing vital processes such as digestion and offering potential new avenues to treat a range of persistent health problems. SciLine’s August 21 media briefing described the role of gut bacteria in the body, the gut microbiome’s relationship to obesity and other common diseases, and the state of science in fecal microbiota transplantation as a treatment for C. difficile infections.