Meet our researchers: Dr. Anders Omsland

Dr. Anders Omsland is an associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School for Global Health. His research focuses on the pathogenesis of bacterial obligate intracellular parasites (BOIPs), specifically Coxiella burnetii and Chlamydia trachomatis.

What are your current research interests and what attracted you to that area?

Research in my laboratory is focused on BOIPs with particular emphasis on how parasite physiology, metabolic capabilities and nutrient requirements shape host-parasite interactions. Coxiella burnetii, the cause of human query fever, and Chlamydia trachomatis, a major cause of sexually transmitted infections, form the basis of my research program.

Both C. burnetii and C. trachomatis rely on biphasic developmental cycles during which the pathogens transition between non-replicative or replicative cell forms. Using molecular genetics combined with analysis of various aspects of pathogen physiology, we seek to understand the biological basis for the organisms’ biphasic developmental cycles.

As both C. burnetii and C. trachomatis have undergone extensive genome reduction during the course of patho-adaptation, active projects also focus on understanding the impact of specific gene loss on Coxiella and Chlamydia virulence. As a group of bacterial pathogens, BOIPs are both biologically fascinating and clinically significant, major reasons for why I was attracted to this field of research.

How can your research help people?

Basic biomedical research in bacterial pathogenesis is about understanding how some bacteria cause disease, one of the most important and fascinating questions humans have. Answers to this question form the foundation for how we can prevent disease.

What do you enjoy about working with students?

The list of great things about being a college professor is long and very high on this list is working with students and other trainees. The most rewarding might be to see how students develop with their projects, start to take ownership of their research and transition from students to scientists capable of teaching others about their work.

What are you most proud of in your career to this point?

I am most proud of establishing host cell-free culture tools for the BOIP Coxiella burnetii. Some of what my collaborators and I have published in this area has opened the door for new avenues of research and been widely adopted by other scientists in the field.

What advice would you give to younger people considering a career in science?

Biomedical research is very exciting but also challenging. Because research is all about problem solving, your professional stamina will be tested by the projects you work on. If you are both stubborn and curious, a career in science might just be perfect for you.