Media Contacts

Julie Kiefer

Associate Director, Science Communications, University of Utah Health
Phone: 801-587-1293

Jul 13, 2020 12:00 PM

June Round, PhD

June Round, PhD, associate professor in microbiology and immunology at University of Utah Health and cancer researcher at Huntsman Cancer Institute, received a $1M grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to expand research on influence of gastrointestinal health and the microbiota on a variety of disorders.

Round aims to understand how maintaining homeostasis of the microbiota in the gut could prevent the treatment of a myriad of diseases. Despite advances within this area, much has remained completely unexplored.

It has become clear that the microbiota—a community of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live on and inside the body—impacts health and disease. This has led to a surge of papers, grants, and companies that are working to harness the power of the microbiota to benefit human health. However, most of these endeavors are focused on one component of the microbiota, the bacteria, despite the presence of archaeal, fungal, and viral members.

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria and exist within mammalian cells, directly affecting and contributing to disease. These bacterial viruses can either kill bacteria directly or integrate within the host genome to control its expression of genes.

In her research, Round proposes to sequence the genome of each bacteria, isolate and purify the bacteriophages from these bacteria and, in collaboration with Chun-Jun Guo (Weill Cornell), create bacterial mutants that lack these bacteriophages to determine their ability to modulate the functioning of immune system. 

“The Keck funding was really interested in new ideas that had the potential to open up new fields,” says Round. “The actual process was so invigorating… the Keck scientific board asked so many thoughtful questions that really pushed me to think deeper about the idea.”  

Round has expertise in mucosal immunology, use of gnotobiotic mouse model systems and isolation and culture of anaerobic gut microbes. She is a recipient of both the Pew Biomedical Scholar and Packard Fellow awards as well as a NSF CAREER and NIH New Innovator awards. 

“It's really foundations such as the Keck that are going to open up new areas of science,” says Round.  

About the W. M. Keck Foundation 

The W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company.  One of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, the W. M. Keck Foundation supports outstanding science, engineering and medical research.  The Foundation also supports undergraduate education and maintains a program within Southern California to support arts and culture, education, health and community service projects.


# # #

Research News iii Diabetes Cancer