Adam Krebs Investigates the Microbes that Affect Our Health
March 2, 2016
There are more bacterial cells in the human body than human cells. Biotech student Adam Krebs is working as a research assistant at Vedanta Biosciences, Inc., a company that is trying to exploit the beneficial bacteria that can stimulate immune responses in the human body. “Research suggests that the microbes inside us really impact our health–from depression to inflammation, ” he says.
Krebs is mapping the DNA sequencing of the bacteria that Vedanta is studying. “The idea is that our cocktails of bacteria will give patients similar, if not better, therapeutic benefits to a Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) procedure, but with a safer, characterized composition.” FMT is the transfer of stool from a healthy donor into the gastrointestinal tract of another for the purpose of treating colitis and other ailments. “Obviously it would be more desirable to just ingest the beneficial microbes because you would get all of the health benefits of the procedure without having to administer, you know, the rest.”
After receiving a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science at Brandeis, Adam wanted to get involved in bench research. He feels that the Biotech program at Brandeis provides that opportunity as well as important business skills. “In my experience, the best way that to get someone in the industry to listen to you is if you can speak to their wallet. We have one of the better-structured Biotech programs because you get the business combined with the science.”
The program begins with a Biotech project lab, which the students affectionately refer to as “boot camp.” In Adam’s words, “Day one–they tell you the project you will be working on. Day two–you are working on that project.” Although balancing four different projects while learning how to work in a dynamic lab environment is challenging, students say it really is beneficial in the long run. “It really whips your data analysis and writing into shape and teaches you to be flexible about research. I feel like a very good generalist who can enter a broad range of lab environments and be productive immediately. I also have a long list of lab skills on my resume.”
In the short term, Adam wants to stay at Vedanta. However, he sees the potential to use his degree to go further in academia, industry or governmental research in the future. While he is leaning towards industry at the moment, he is considering earning a Ph.D. later in his career. “The nice thing about this program is that you can move in either direction. I want to get some industry experience now, but I am well positioned to move into a Ph.D. program later.”
In regards to the Biotech program at Brandeis, Adam feels that all the effort was worth it. “In addition to the scientific background I am developing, having a business dimension to my education really sets me apart. I have a foundation where I can walk into an interview or an office meeting and really understand what’s being discussed. If I were speaking to a prospective student, my advice would be: ‘Just do it!’”