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Cassandra Quave, PhDAssistant Professor of Dermatology and Human HealthCurator of the Herbarium


Cassandra Quave, Ph.D. is Curator of the Herbarium and Associate Professor of Dermatology and Human Health at Emory University, where she leads natural product drug discovery research initiatives and teaches courses on medicinal plants, microbiology, and pharmacology. As a medical ethnobotanist, her work focuses on the documentation and pharmacological analysis of plants used in traditional medicine. She earned her B.S. in Biology and Anthropology from Emory University in 2000, her Ph.D. in Biology from Florida International University in 2008, and completed post-doctoral fellowships in Microbiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (2009-2011) and Human Health at Emory University (2012). Her research focuses on the discovery of plant secondary metabolites with antimicrobial properties and this work is supported by the National Institutes of Health, industry contracts, and philanthropy.

Dr. Quave is a founder of two start-up companies, PhyoTEK LLC and Verdant Scientific, which are translating her laboratory discoveries into products for future clinical use. She is a Fellow of the Explorers Club, a past President of the Society for Economic Botany, a recipient of the Emory Williams Teaching Award, Charles Heiser, Jr. Mentor Award, and American Botanical Council James. A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award. Quave is the host of Foodie Pharmacology, an acclaimed science podcast dedicated to exploring the links between food and medicine. She has authored more than 100 scientific publications, two edited books, seven patents. In 2021, she published an award-winning science memoir, The Plant Hunter: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines. In 2022, Dr. Quave was awarded the prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Eric and Wendy Schmidt Award for Excellence in Science Communication and the American Herbal Products Association Herbal Insight Award. Quave’s research has been profiled in major news outlets including the New York Times Magazine, BBC Science Focus, National Geographic Magazine, ABC News, PBS, NPR, and the National Geographic Channel.

Research Interests

Research in the Quave lab is focused on drug discovery efforts from natural products to improve treatment options for multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections. We use an ethnobotanical approach to drug discovery. This involves field research to document traditional medical therapies for infectious diseases, collection of biological specimens (plants and fungi) for chemical extraction, and bioassay-guided fractionation strategies to screen for novel anti-infectives. Our bacterial targets include serious and urgent threat-level pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Klebsiella pneumoniae (CRE), respectively. Our main pathways of interest are regulation of bacterial quorum sensing and biofilms. Examples of our lead projects include work on one natural product composition (220D-F2) that inhibits biofilm formation in S. aureus and disrupts established Streptococcus pneumoniae biofilms and another composition (224C-F2) that quenches the S. aureus agr quorum sensing system, effectively turning off production of a suite of destructive exotoxins. We are exploring the utility of these products as potential adjuvants to existing lines of therapeutics with the aim of improving response to antibiotic therapies. Isolation and structural elucidation of small molecules is foundational to our research, and this involves use of state-of-the-art MS and NMR resources.