Interview with Craig Bartling of Battelle

Dr. Bartling has over 15 years of research experience in the life sciences, including a B.S. and Ph.D. in biochemistry. Dr. Bartling is leading proteomics efforts at Battelle, and he has led several proteomics and genomics programs to date. For example, he is leading a project to identify relevant peptide variants from hair using a variety of extraction and preparation protocols. Further, he is leading efforts to develop a database-independent antibody sequencing method from mass spectrometry data. He is also leading efforts to annotate threatening protein sequences for biosecurity purposes. Dr. Bartling’s other relevant past programs include: PI for development of an NGS-based method that classifies tissues based on epigenetic signatures. Read his full bio.

Interview with Craig Bartling of Battelle

Q: What need is Battelle addressing?

A: Battelle is building classic and artificial intelligence (AI)-based tools to rapidly screen DNA sequences for pathogenic functions. Function-based screening targets the pathogenic processes or virulence factors associated with a sequence. This approach provides advantages over simply matching to functionally uninformative genome segments, enabling pathogen identification on the basis of pathogenicity rather than requiring an exact sequence match to a known pathogen. This is groundbreaking because it allows us to detect potential emerging pathogens that may not yet be sequenced and databased.

Q: What are the products and/or services Battelle offers/develops to address this need?

A: ThreatSeq™ and Fun-GCAT are function-based offerings for pathogen detection.

Q: What makes Battelle unique?

A: Battelle is an applied research institute with tremendous breadth and depth of expertise, allowing us to form cross functional teams combining expertise in biological/life sciences, computer science, software engineering and biostatistics. By integrating these specialties with the use of advanced analytics, Battelle can develop well-rounded and unique solutions to the toughest technical challenges in pathogen identification.

Q: What is your role at Battelle and what excites you about your work?

A: I am the lead biocurator, and my job is to curate biological data pertaining to the molecular determinants of microbial functions that determine pathogenicity. My team’s work bridges the gap between biology, analytics and computer science. We make the biology machine-readable, which is very exciting!

Q: When thinking about Battelle and the domain Battelle is working in, what are some of the recent breakthroughs that are propelling the field forward and how will they impact healthcare?

A: Of course, the foundational breakthroughs are in DNA sequencing – massively parallel sequencing has enabled this entire field by making it possible to generate data quickly. Then, breakthroughs in alignment algorithms have sped the process of screening sequences for alignment against databases of known sequences, allowing us to analyze data in a timeframe that is relevant for medical diagnostics.

Q: What are the short-term challenges that Battelle and its peers are facing?

A: The biggest challenge pertains to the limitations of the diagnostic tools and techniques that are currently available. Because current tools rely on sequence matching to static/known pathogens, they can’t reliably detect emerging or novel pathogens, thus running the danger of such pathogens remaining undetected. Battelle is overcoming this challenge using the function-based approach.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the PMWC audience?

A: I’m excited to be participating with this group of scientists who are doing cutting edge work and driving the state of the field forward!