Applying Evolutionary Theory to Prevent Pathogens Drug Resistance
Dr. John W. Pepper
Assistant Professor, University of Arizona
External Research Faculty, Santa Fe Institute
November 29, 2010
Davis Center, 419 Mildred Livak Room
Many of our greatest medical challenges involve the evolution of drug-resistant pathogens. Acquired drug resistance is a central problem in cancer medicine, and the same principles underlay population-wide evolution of drug-resistant infectious disease. The source of these problems is well understood. Drug resistance is caused by selection and evolution in populations of pathogen cells, and exacerbated by our standard approach to drug development.
We usually try to control disease by using drugs that kill pathogen cells. Unfortunately, such drugs act as powerful selective agents, driving evolution by eliminating drug-sensitive cells, and leaving any resistant mutants to proliferate with reduced competition. Because of this, the high pathogen-cell toxicity that we strive for does not always predict the long-term success of the drugs we develop. Based on our improving understanding of pathogen ecology and evolution, we can implement an alternative approach that can provide drugs that control disease, and do not quickly lose effectiveness to evolved drug resistance. This approach is based on attacking cooperation among pathogen cells instead of killing the cells directly.
Dr. Pepper received his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Michigan in 1966. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute, where he now serves as a member of the External Research Faculty. He is also an Assistant Professor in the University of Arizona's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. His research focuses on the theory of multilevel selection and evolution, and on applications of this theory. Currently, he is working primarily on applications of evolutionary theory to complex diseases, including cancer. His major goal is to bring scientific understanding of evolution to bear in understanding the role of somatic cell-level evolution in the origin and progression of cancer.
This event is cosponsored by the Complex Systems Center and the Department of Biology.