Kim Lewis, pro­fessor of biology and director of the Antimi­cro­bial Dis­covery Center at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, has been elected to the Amer­ican Academy of Micro­bi­ology for his body of research on dor­mant per­sister cells and uncul­tured microorganisms.

Fel­lows of the academy—the hon­orific lead­er­ship group within the Amer­ican Society of Microbiology—are elected annu­ally through a highly selec­tive peer-​​reviewed process, based on sci­en­tific excel­lence and schol­arly achieve­ment in the field. More than 2,500 Fel­lows cur­rently rep­re­sent all branches of micro­bi­ology, including basic and applied research, public health and gov­ern­ment service.

The academy is essen­tially a who’s who in micro­bi­ology,” said Lewis. “It feels good to be in this select group.”

As part of his fel­low­ship, Lewis will con­vene a col­lo­quium to address antimi­cro­bial drug tol­er­ance. Microor­gan­isms, he has found, pro­duce dor­mant cells, called per­sis­ters, which cannot be killed by antibi­otics. When treat­ment for a chronic infec­tion ceases, per­sis­ters grow and repop­u­late, causing relapse.

Both drug tol­er­ance and con­ven­tional drug resis­tance, he said, require devel­op­ment of new antibi­otics, which Lewis hopes to dis­cover by screening com­pounds from pre­vi­ously uncul­tured species of microorganisms.

Last October, he received a $1.3 mil­lion grant from the Human Micro­biome Project at the National Insti­tutes of Health to study human-​​intestine microor­gan­isms that researchers have pre­vi­ously been unable to grow in the lab. Lewis recently iden­ti­fied the first growth factor and is in the process of filing a patent on his discovery.

Lewis also plans to pub­lish papers in mBIO, an online-​​only journal of the Amer­ican Society of Micro­bi­ology that offers rapid review and pub­li­ca­tion of the best research in the field. He recently sub­mitted his first paper, a study of tuber­cu­losis pathogens.

As an academy member, I can pub­lish one paper a year with min­imal red tape,” said Lewis. “It’s a useful mech­a­nism for mem­bers who want to pub­lish paradigm-​​shifting research.”

View selected pub­li­ca­tions of Kim Lewis in IRis, Northeastern’s dig­ital archive.