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An Interview with Bill R. Jacobs, Jr., Ph.D

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and of Molecular Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

This video was recorded on November 13, 2009 at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Bill Jacobs
Dr. Bill Jacobs

Jacobs moved to Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1985 to become a postdoc with Barry Bloom, who was studying a related bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In 1987, Jacobs set up his own lab at Albert Einstein, a stone’s throw from a former TB sanatorium. Taking a down-to-earth approach, he began to isolate mycobacterial phages from the dirt in his backyard. The first was Bxb1, the “Bronx Bomber,” which is now featured in 13 publications. But his phage collection has grown over the years, thanks to high school students in his summer Phage Phinders program.

One of Jacobs’s most important findings was published in Science in 1994, when his group identified the target for isoniazid (one of the most highly prescribed drugs in the history of the world) and a related TB drug, ethionamide. They discovered that mutating a gene called inhA (needed for an early step in the synthesis of mycolic acid, a distinguishing feature of mycobacteria) made Mycobacterium resistant to isoniazid and ethionamide.

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