Dr Caitlin Cooper

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My background is in genome engineering in agricultural animals. My Ph.D research focused on using milk from transgenic goats and cows which contained recombinant human antimicrobial proteins to improve food safety and decrease intestinal infections in developing countries. Intestinal E. coli infections cause significant morbidity and mortality in young children in developing countries, and are a leading source of gastroenteritis in people traveling overseas. This recombinant milk had increased shelf life and consumption of the milk improved gastrointestinal health in a young pig model, hastening recovery from clinical intestinal E. coli infection.

I continued working in the food safety space after my Ph.D, taking a post-doctoral position at the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory on a project aimed at decreasing the spread of pathogens from poultry products. I developed two lines of transgenic chickens which overexpress native chicken antimicrobial proteins and in the transgenic eggs growth of Salmonella enterica, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes is inhibited, while on the meat growth of Coliform bacteria and Pseudomonas is reduced. During this time I also became very interested in new technologies such as TALENs and the CRISPR/Cas 9 system. I spearheaded a project looking at novel ways of delivering these tools to the single cell zygote in chickens, which lead to the development of sperm transfection assisted gene editing, or STAGE, which we recently received a provisional patent for.

After completing my first post-doctoral fellowship I shifted my focus from agricultural species to invasive species. Specifically my research is currently focused on applying new techniques like CRISPR/Cas9 to invasive species to explore the opportunities around genetic based species mitigation plans, with a particular focus on the cane toad. Invasive species, including the cane toad, present a significant threat to biosecurity. This is clearly demonstrated in countries such as Australia and New Zealand where introduced invasive species have decimated the unique local flora and fauna, leading to the destruction of local ecosystems, a significant reduction in biodiversity, and major negative impacts on the economy. Applying tools from genome engineering and synthetic biology to invasive species paves the way for novel strategies around harm mitigation and invasive species eradication.

Fields of Research

Current Roles

  • Postdoctoral Fellow
    Genome engineering in the cane toad

Academic Qualifications

  • 2009

    Bachelors of Science
    University of Vermont

  • 2010

    Masters in Animal Biology
    University of California, Davis

  • 2013

    PhD in Animal Biology
    University of California, Davis

Professional Experiences

  • 2014-2017

    Postdoctoral Fellow