All posts for the month January, 2016

Hi everyone- so the interesting probiotic strain of Lactobacillus johnsonii (it has suppressive effects on lymphoma development in mice) that UCLA researcher Robert Schiestl is working with is being subjected to all sorts of studies. Dr. Schiestl himself wants to do some really interesting things with it, including human clinical trials, and I hope he finds the funds he needs to accomplish his fairly ambitious goals. I myself was trying to help him with this, and to also find funding to continue a project I had started in 2014. My project (Project: Cancer-Fighting Gut Bacteria) had the goal of figuring out one possible mechanism that this bacterium (and maybe other gut bacteria) might employ to affect human health. If I am right about the mechanism, it might be possible to design treatments that people who can’t tolerate probiotics, like chemotherapy patients who must avoid live bacteria, can take which might help them with some of the negative side-effects of chemotherapy treatments. Maybe. Even if I’m right, developing such treatments would take a long time, and of course the first step would be the experiments I and my collaborators were planning in the project.

I thought it might be possible to write an NIH R21 grant with the help of collaborators at Duke, the University of Guelph and with Dr. Schiestl’s help- but alas, there are three main impediments to this idea. The first is that I myself am not allowed to be PI on grants- my position simply does not allow this, and so in order for a grant to go forward, someone else has to be PI. Because this is a lot of work, I thought it might work if I volunteered to write the majority of the grant myself, and just get assistance with things like forms and submission deadlines- but unfortunately this situation isn’t working well with the long distances involved in this working group. The second impediment to my writing an R21 is that I am employed full-time as a researcher at the University of Guelph looking at environmental microbiology questions, and my employer is concerned that I’ll spend too much energy working on this project and not enough on her projects. This is a valid concern.  Thirdly, I am bipolar- and I find that if I try to push myself too hard and work too much, I break down. So I have to draw a line somewhere with how much of my spare time I can spend working.

So, the best solution to this problem is for me to find a position that allows me to focus on writing the grants I feel need to be written during my working days, and allows me to act as PI on those grants. This would solve a number of problems, and would also allow me to get credit for the ideas that are mine (a nice bonus). So until a situation comes along that allows me to be PI on the grant I’d need to write to fund it, Project: Cancer-Fighting Gut Bacteria is on ice.  This is a hard decision for me to make, since I have a deep personal interest in the project (my brother died of cancer in 2003, and loved ones of friends of mine have suffered through lymphoma chemotherapy treatments), and if I’m correct about the mechanism the finding would be quite important scientifically.  But I can’t afford to fund it myself, crowdfunding has not worked for me, and the only way I can write a grant and do it well is if I can focus on it properly- which means I need to be working as an adjunct professor, at the very least, and not simply a research associate.

I’m going to maintain this website, since it consistently gets a small number of hits and I hope the short pieces I write on probiotic bacteria will be useful to people seeking information. There’s a lot of hype and a lot of poorly researched articles out there- as I find interesting work I will continue to blog about it here.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you find something interesting on this site.