Fungal Informatics

Fungi are a diverse group of organisms that play critical roles in ecological recycling and industrial production, but are also the causative agents of plant and animal disease. Human fungal infections, in particular, are an underappreciated problem and are responsible for more deaths each year than tuberculosis or malaria (source: gaffi.org). While a few fungal species have evolved to be human commensals, the vast majority of fungi, including those that are able to infect humans, have lifestyles largely independent of the human environments they cause disease in. In junior group Fungal Informatics headed by Dr Amelia Barber, our goal is to understand how, in the absence of evolutionary selection, environmental fungi such as Aspergillus fumigatus, Fusarium spp, and Rhizopus spp are able to cause human disease using a combination of experimental and computational approaches. In particular, we focus on:

  • The ecological interactions, including in microbial communities, that shape human pathogenicity of environmental fungi
  • The genomic and phenotypic relationship between environmental and clinical isolates of human fungal pathogens
  • Using comparative genomics and machine learning to understand fungal lifestyle and pathogenicity