Faculty Spotlight: Brian O. Bachmann, Ph.D.

Brian Bachmann received his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in 2000 and is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He is the Principal Investigator of the Laboratory for Biosynthetic Studies, a multidisciplinary group working on the construction and deconstruction of biosynthetic pathways and the discovery of their products. The broad goals of this group are to investigate how natural product biosynthetic enzymes evolve and to understand the design rules for their concatenation into efficient “total syntheses” of natural products. 


Captain Crunch (with Crunchberries!)


Favorite childhood cereal?

Captain Crunch (with Crunchberries!)


When you were 5, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Giligan from Giligan's Isle


How, When, and Why did you decide to become a scientist?  

I was raised by chemistry-based tech entrepreneurs with a start up high tech adhesive company in the basement of our Connecticut farmhouse, so being a scientist was always a contender. I probably fixed the decision my junior year college at which point I had encouragement from Chemistry, English and Philosophy profs to pursue graduate study. I remember thinking I could continue the other interests in my spare time as they did not require fancy expensive equipment so I finally committed to chemistry.


Before you came to academia, your career was in industry, correct? Which company were you with, and what brought you to academia?  

Ecopia Biosciences, Montreal QC, the first genome mining drug discovery company. I came back to academia because it has a higher tolerance for risk in many ways.and a longer attention span than biotech. Crazy 'out there' ideas are rewarded by academia and once you have a grant you have 4-5 years to pull it off. In biotech you measure progress by quarters and everything you do must directly support the strategic business goals of your organization.


How long have you been at VU/VUMC?  

Since 2003. Don't make me do the math!


What does your lab do/study?

(1) Natural Product Drug Discovery from new ecosystems, (2) methods for discovery of new anticancer natural products by single cell chemical biology, (2) "Fixing the unfixable" learning how life makes bioactive natural products so that we can re-engineer life to make better natural products.


April is Earth Month. Tell us how and why your lab collaborates with the Earth to make *cough* groundbreaking scientific discoveries.

We literally do drug discovery in caves! While my more sensible colleagues in marine natural products collect samples by scuba and snorkeling in tropical locations, we literally go underground to collect samples from which to discovery new organisms capable of making the next cures. They come back more tan and well rested looking, we come back paler and covered in ground.


Science Bulletins: Caving for Cures - Mining Drugs From Nature


How do you foresee these discoveries impacting human health?

New cancer drug leads, new antibiotics.


How do you foresee your research impacting our relationship with the Earth?

Green manufacturing of drugs, understanding soil biodiversity, cave preservation.


What is one piece of advice you'd give to a new graduate student?

Always have fun and do not lose the sense of play in your work.


Tell us a funny story from the lab. Grad school and postdoc training stories are even better!

Dr. Die, Dr. Schism, and Dr. Who were the names of my first doctoral graduates. Do I run evil doctor school? (That is how they are pronounced, spelled Ntai, Scism, Hu)

Bachmann Lab out and about! (Pre COVID)

Bachman Lab (Pre COVID)
Bachman Lab (Pre COVID)