Antibiotic Research Pioneer Joins Faculty at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services

WASHINGTON, DC (October 15, 2012)—The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) has named Lance B. Price, PhD, as professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, an appointment that will accelerate the school’s research aimed at finding solutions for antibiotic resistance, a pressing global public health problem.

Dr. Price comes to SPHHS from the Arizona-based non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) where he will continue to direct their Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health and the Center for Microbiomics and Human Health. With the dual appointment he plans to lead collaborative research projects aimed at generating a better understanding of the source and spread of potentially deadly superbugs, microbes that resist treatment with antibiotics. He will also use genomic epidemiology to investigate how the misuse of antibiotics by industrial farms affects the public health.

“These large industrial livestock operations routinely use low-dose antibiotics to ward off infections in animals kept under crowded, unsanitary conditions,” he said, adding that such misuse can lead to antibiotic resistant superbugs. “I am thrilled to be able to forge ahead on this public health problem and others under the auspices of SPHHS, an institution with a well-deserved reputation for excellence in research both nationally and internationally.”

Dr. Price already has a substantial portfolio of published research on the topic of antibiotic resistance, including a 2011 study he led while at TGen. In that study, Dr. Price and his team studied chicken, turkey and pork from grocery stores in five cities across the country and found that many were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, a “bug” that can cause infections in humans. “About one quarter of the samples were contaminated with S. aureus that had become resistant to multiple antibiotics,” Dr. Price said. Such resistant superbugs can cause infections that are hard-to-treat, if they can be treated at all.

In other research conducted at TGen, Dr. Price traced the journey of Staphylococcus aureus from humans to pigs—where it developed resistance to several commonly used antibiotics. At that point the resistant superbug found its way back to humans, a finding that clearly shows the danger of feeding livestock low doses of antibiotics on a routine basis. Microorganisms that are regularly exposed to antibiotics in this way will, over time, develop resistance to the so-called wonder drugs, which are losing their ability to treat infections in humans, Price said. He has been quoted and his research findings have been highlighted in many prominent media outlets, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News, Scientific American and others.

“Dr. Price has a remarkable ability to communicate complex public health topics, such as the role of industrial farms in the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria,” said Melissa J. Perry, ScD, MHS, Chair of the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at SPHHS. “He is not only using cutting-edge genomic epidemiology techniques to generate new findings but translating his research into a wider understanding of how such factory operations affect the public health.”

While at TGen, Dr. Price also developed genomic methods for studying the communities of micro-organisms that live in and on the human body. These microbes can be the source of infection but they can also help keep people healthy. Dr. Price plans to accelerate his research on the “microbiome” now that he has joined the faculty at SPHHS.

TGen President and Scientific Director Jeffrey Trent, PhD, said Dr. Price’s joint appointment at TGen and SPHHS provides new opportunities for collaboration in public health. “Investigating health care problems through genomic research takes a unique skill set. By sharing the expertise of Dr. Price, we are thrilled to align TGen’s efforts with George Washington University in the study of infectious disease.”

Dr. Price received a BS in Microbiology and MS in Biology from Northern Arizona University, where he led Anthrax and Plague research projects. In 2000, Price moved to Baltimore and worked for a small biotech company while continuing his studies. In 2006, he earned a PhD in Environmental Health Science at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

About the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services:

Established in July 1997, the School of Public Health and Health Services brought together three longstanding university programs in the schools of medicine, business, and education that we have since expanded substantially. Today, more than 1,100 students from nearly every U.S. state and more than 40 nations pursue undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral-level degrees in public health. Our student body is one of the most ethnically diverse among the nation's private schools of public health.

About TGen:

The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: