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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 Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Human Health at Emory University, where she leads antibiotic drug discovery research initiatives and teaches courses on medicinal plants, microbiology and pharmacology. Her research focuses on the documentation and biochemical analysis of plants used in the traditional medical treatment of infectious and inflammatory skin disease. She applies this unique approach to natural products drug discovery in her search for new antibiotics that target multidrug resistant pathogens. 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 has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, Fortune 100 industry contracts, and philanthropy. Dr. Quave has authored 109 scientific works, including 63 original research articles, 12 reviews, 19 book chapters, six patents, and two edited books. She is the co-founder and CEO/CSO of PhytoTEK LLC, a drug discovery company dedicated to developing solutions from botanicals for the treatment of recalcitrant antibiotic resistant infections. 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 and Charles Heiser, Jr. Mentor Award. She is the creator and host of Foodie Pharmacology, a podcast dedicated to exploring the links between food and medicine. Her research has been the subject of feature profiles in the New York Times Magazine, BBC Focus, National Geographic Magazine, Brigitte Magazin, National Geographic Channel, PBS, NPR, and several major news outlets.

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.