Metagenomic DNA Sequencing to Detect and Diagnose Infections

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Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite researchers in the area — as well as interested members of the metropolitan public — to join us for this weekly lecture series.
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Over the past 20 years, scientists have sequenced the genomes of thousands of bacteria and viruses, including most human pathogens. These DNA sequences have led to a revolution in our understanding of infectious diseases, yet they are still not used in the clinic, where the vast majority of infections are never definitively diagnosed. Recent breakthroughs in DNA sequencing technology now make it possible to use metagenomic sequencing – in which we sequence a complex mixture of DNA without separating out the species within it – to diagnose infections directly from human biopsy samples. In this lecture, Dr. Steven L. Salzberg will describe how scientists and doctors are working together to diagnose infections in the brain and the eye, and how this technology has the potential to transform our approach to treating a wide range of infections.

About the Speaker

Dr. Salzberg is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics, and the Director of the Center for Computational Biology in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Salzberg received his B.A., M.S., and M. Phil. degrees from Yale University, and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His laboratory focuses primarily on three areas: genome sequence assembly, transcriptome alignment and assembly, and metagenomics. The team’s open-source software systems for DNA sequence analysis are used by thousands of labs around the world. Salzberg also writes a popular science blog at

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