Welcome to the Riley Laboratory

Our team tackles a wide range of science research, education and outreach projects:

Research - The focus of our research is in the area of microbial evolution - namely antimicrobial resistance evolution - and drug development. We are currently wrapping up a large study on the molecular evolution of antibiotic resistance genes in clinical and environmental isolates. This study has revealed a large reservoir of resistance genes in wild populations and strong levels of positive selection among amino acid sites that increase levels of resistance in clinical populations. In addition to this work we are exploring novel antibiotics that hinder drug resistance and target the pathogen, leaving the majority of the microbiome intact. To that end, we created a small biopharmaceutical company (Bacteriotix) whose mission is to develop bacteriocins, protein toxins produced by most bacteria – as an alternative to conventional antibiotics. More recently, we have partnered with the Pheromonicin Institute in Beijing whose mission is to bring a new bacteriocin-based drug platform to market.

Education - Dr. Riley teaches several formal courses, including Quantitative Systems - a math intensive version of introductory biology - and the upper level course Principles of Molecular Evolution. She also offers an intensive intern experience in the area of science outreach, in which students learn how to engage and inspire people about science. She also hosts the Dakin Animal Shelter intern experience.

Outreach - Dr. Riley is the founder and former president of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising the level of civic science literacy in the state. This organization engages in a wide range of science outreach activities, including hosting an annual meeting, visiting school classrooms across the state and engaging in science education reform efforts. She is also the co-founder of the Institute for Drug Resistance, which serves as a vehicle for facilitating, supporting and promoting novel, multidisciplinary approaches to the challenges of drug resistance.

Bacteriotix - A small biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to develop novel antimicrobials whose use limits resistance evolution and minimizes the collateral damage of the drug to the healthy human microbiome.

Pheromonicin Institute – A newly created (in 2015!) organization funded by the Chinese government to bring the pheromonicin-based drug platform to market. Until the Institute has its own website, you can find more information at the Pheromonicin Biotech Ltd websites.

Finally, Dr. Riley recently created the UMass STEM Ambassadors Program, which was funded by the UMass President's Office, and seeks to engage STEM undergraduate students in research, outreach and education activities in an effort to increase retention in the STEM majors.

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