Judges Bios


Bio-Path Holdings
Bellaire, Texas


Dr. Suzanne Kennedy is Director of Corporate Development for Bio-Path Holdings, Inc., an oncology focused pharmaceutical company based in Houston, TX. She has over 15 years of combined R&D, marketing, and business development experience in the life science industry. Her previous experience at QIAGEN and Thermo Fisher (formerly Invitrogen) in global marketing led to her position as Director of Research and Development for MO BIO Laboratories from 2008 until 2013. In this role she led the development and launch of over 30 products and co-developed the intellectual property leading to two patents as well as established numerous academic and business collaborations for corporate business development worldwide. She received her Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University in microbiology and immunology in 1997.

jack.a.gilbert 2016

University of Chicago
Department of Ecology & Evolution
IL, United States


Microbial communities: temporal and biogeographic structure

Professor Jack A Gilbert earned his Ph.D. from Unilever and Nottingham University, UK in 2002, and received his postdoctoral training at Queens University, Canada. He subsequently returned to the UK in 2005 to Plymouth Marine Laboratory at a senior scientist until his move to Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago in 2010. Currently, Professor Gilbert is in Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago, and is Group Leader for Microbial Ecology at Argonne National Laboratory. He is also Associate Director of the Institute of Genomic and Systems Biology, Research Associate at the Field Museum of Natural History, and Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Dr. Gilbert uses molecular analysis to test fundamental hypotheses in microbial ecology. He has authored more than 200 peer reviewed publications and book chapters on metagenomics and approaches to ecosystem ecology. He is currently working on generating observational and mechanistic models of microbial communities in natural, urban, built and human ecosystems. He is on the advisory board of the Genomic Standards Consortium (www.gensc.org), and is the founding Editor in Chief of mSystems. In 2014 he was recognized on Crain’s Business Chicago’s 40 Under 40 List, and in 2015 he was listed as one of the 50 most influential scientists by Business Insider, and in the Brilliant Ten by Popular Scientist.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
University of Copenhagen,
University of California, Berkeley


The overarching aim of my research is to gain a better understanding of key functions carried out by microorganisms in complex microbial communities, such as those residing in soil, sediment and the human gut, by employing state-of-the-art and novel “omics” approaches. These tools are implemented with bioinformatics and statistics using super computing facilities to tackle increasingly large and complex meta-omic datasets. One specific research area that we are addressing in my group is to use omics to better understand the role of soil microorganisms in cycling of carbon and how these functions are perturbed in the face of a changing climate.

Professor, Pediatrics and Computer Science & Engineering
University of California, San Diego


Rob Knight is integrating concepts from evolutionary biology and ecology with high-throughput sequencing to study molecular diversity. He is especially interested in understanding how the human microbiome develops and how variation in the microbiome affects health and disease.


joe-PetrosinoDepartment of Molecular Virology & Microbiology
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas


My research focuses on how the environmental and human microbiota are associated with health and disease with the goal of implementing new diagnostic and therapeutic measures based on the role of the microbiome in each context. Microbiome based diagnostics may provide a more sensitive method for detecting and characterizing certain diseases and/or predicting susceptibility to others so that appropriate precautions can be made (for example, taking a probiotic or antibiotic when traveling when it’s known that an individual is highly susceptible to travelers’ diarrhea or Norwalk virus infection). Just as human genome sequencing can contribute to an individualized profile that is medically actionable, the microbiome soon too will assist doctors in the era of personalized medicine.


University of California, Davis
UC Davis Genome Center, the School of Medicine 
and the College of Biological Sciences.


 Dr. Eisen’s research focuses on communities of microbes and how they provide new functions - to each other or to a host. His study systems have included boiling acid pools, surface ocean waters, agents of many diseases, and the microbial ecosystems in and on plants and animals. He is also coordinating the largest microbial sequencing project to date – a Genomic Encyclopedia – being done at the DOE Joint Genome Institute where he holds an Adjunct Appointment.


National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Department of Biology
Maynooth, Ireland


The main research focuses in my laboratory are changing microbiomes and antibiotic resistance and discovery. I started out by investigating the changes in a single species of bacteria, mostly human pathogens caused by antibiotics. When I moved to investigate the influence of antibiotic use in agriculture on the development and selection of resistance, I realized that looking at single species would no longer be sufficient. This is where my interest in microbiomes started. I could investigate if the use of antibiotics changed the entire bacterial community of soil or on a plant using microbiome analyses without being restricted to culturable bacteria. The research of this laboratory investigates different microbiomes: human, animal and environmental. I have recently also developed collaborations with immunologists to investigate how the microbiome affects immune responses and vice-versa. In particular we are investigating diseases in which the immune response plays an important role.


Director of Bioinformatics and Microbial Ecology - Texas Children’s Microbiome Center
Assistant Professor, Pathology & Immunology, Baylor College of Medicine


My interest in microbiome science began with the carbon cycle (and a desire to understand the links between vegetation change, soil microbes, and carbon storage) and has led to my involvement in projects related to agricultural management, biofuel production, model systems, and the human microbiome. 
Situated at the interface of microbial ecology and bioinformatics, and housed within the Texas Children’s Microbiome Center, my research group is dedicated to the study of the structure and function of mixed microbial communities.


Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Stanford University School of Medicine, CA


After receiving my PhD at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, I worked at the Dutch National Institute for Health and the St. Antonius Hospital in Nieuwegein. In 2001, I joined the laboratory of David Relman at Stanford, where I have worked on the characterization of the human microbiome in thousands of oral, gastric, and intestinal samples. I currently study the microbiome of marine mammals.


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