Gerard C. L. Wong is a Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, Department of Chemistry, and the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. Wong received his BS and PhD at Caltech physics and Berkeley physics respectively. He joined the Materials Science & Engineering Dept and Physics Dept at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000 and moved to UCLA in 2009. His research recognition includes: the Beckman Young Investigator Award, Alfred P Sloan Fellowship, and Sackler Distinguished Speaker. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2011), and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (2016). His current research interests include bacterial biofilms, innate immunity, and antibiotic design.
Biomolecular self-assembly and physical chemistry can play unexpected roles in infectious diseases and immunity. It is a commonplace notion that specific binding plays critical roles in the immune system. Here, we explore how one can construct exquisitely specific interactions using non-specific interactions. Specifically, we will discuss how organization of immune ligands impacts immune activation via Toll-Like Receptors, the surprising role played by innate immunity peptides in this organization, and how these effects are at play in inflammation induced by heart disease, necrotic cell death, neutrophil extracellular traps, and autoimmune diseases. We will also discuss how machine learning can be used to map out the undiscovered sequence space of antimicrobial peptides, and how this knowledge may be used to create new molecules against multi-drug resistant pathogens by renovating existing obsolete antibiotics.