The Hooven Lab research is centered on improving our understanding of newborn bacterial infections. Two areas of focus are group B Streptococcus (GBS), which is a leading cause of infectious complications during the neonatal period, and necrotizing enterocolitis, which is a severe intestinal disease that affects premature infants. Questions that the lab aims to address include: Why are newborn babies at dramatically increased risk of acquiring GBS infections? What are the cellular mechanisms by which GBS avoids destruction by the immune system? Can we use machine learning and other advanced bioinformatics approaches to better understand and predict necrotizing enterocolitis?
To address these questions, the lab uses a variety of approaches that combine classical microbiology with more advanced, whole-genome and bioinformatics-based techniques to increase the depth of our understanding as efficiently as possible.
The lab uses novel models of neonatal infection that mimic—in a laboratory setting—all of the major ways bacterial infections can present in the NICU: triggering preterm birth (sometimes stillbirth), early-onset sepsis and meningitis within the first week of a baby’s life, and late-onset sepsis and meningitis occurring during the first few months of life. The lab also deploy novel genome modification tools, many of which we developed, in order to precisely target bacterial DNA in a way that allows us to understand how specific bacterial genes contribute to neonatal disease. The Hooven Lab seeks to discover previously unknown or unrecognized molecular mechanisms and patterns of neonatal bacterial infection, with a goal of identifying pathways and tools to better protect vulnerable newborns.