Clare Smith, Ph.D.

Clare Smith, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Clare hails from Tasmania, the island state off the coast of Australia, where she grew up rowing, playing cricket and wrangling marsupials.

She got her Bachelor of Biotechnology with honors from the University of Tasmania, where she discovered the world of host genetics and disease susceptibility. She then got her Ph.D. at the Menzies Research Institute under the mentorship of geneticist Prof Simon Foote. Here she identified a red cell factor essential for growth of the malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. She found that red cells from people or mice with deficiencies in haem biosynthetic enzymes were more resistant to malarial growth, and this protective effect could be mimicked with drugs as a new host-directed antimalarial therapy.

For her postdoc, Clare packed a bag and journeyed to Umass Medical School in MA to postdoc with Prof Christopher Sassetti. Here, she combined her host genetics background with new bacterial technologies to develop a “dual genome” system to probe the host-pathogen interactions that drive susceptibility to Tuberculosis. By combining transposon libraries of Mycobacterium tuberculosis with genetically diverse mice, including the Collaborative Cross, she defined the immunological niche and conditions that Mtb requires to grow in genetically diverse hosts. She additionally established the Collaborative Cross as a new model to dissect vaccine protection and TB pathogenesis across diverse TB clinical isolates.

Now, as an Assistant Professor and newest recruit to the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology (MGM) department at Duke, she is bringing systems genetics approaches to define the host-pathogen interactions that drive susceptibility to tuberculosis. By understanding how these interactions drive immunity, new host-pathogen paired therapeutics and vaccines can be rationally designed. She is excited to help train the next-gen of researchers that will help solve the big questions in medical research.

Outside of the lab, Clare can be found exploring her new NC surrounds at the Cat’s cradle, local brew spots or paddle boarding.