San Diego — June 15, 2023 – Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, the largest children’s hospital on the West Coast and one of the nation’s top pediatric health care systems, is pleased to announce that Rob Knight, Ph.D. has been appointed as The Wolfe Family Endowed Chair in Microbiome Research at Rady Children’s. As Chair, Dr. Knight will continue his extensive microbiome research with a focus on the development of microbiome-based and companion diagnostics, which provide patients with early warnings of disease flares and can rapidly accelerate the process of finding the correct treatment.
“The microbiome is frequently overlooked in the field of medicine. As a world-renowned scientist, Dr. Knight does the necessary, underlying work that allows physicians to deeply understand what their patients are dealing with and how to properly treat them,” stated Patrick Frias, MD, President and CEO of Rady Children’s. “Innovation is vital to providing superlative pediatric healthcare. Dr. Knight’s appointment as Chair will lead to new, high-impact microbiome research and we look forward to seeing his findings improve care and outcomes for our patients, particularly those with hard-to-treat diseases.”
Dr. Knight, who is also a professor of pediatrics, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), is an international leader in the scientific study of microbes and has made countless contributions to pediatric medicine. His work has produced many of the initial software tools and laboratory techniques that enabled microbiome science, including the QIIME pipeline and UniFrac, both of which have been cited thousands of times.
“Though microbiome research is still in its infancy, our findings are already providing fundamental insight into a wide range of processes in human health and disease,” said Dr. Knight, who is also the founding Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation. “As this field continues to grow, we expect to execute biomarker discovery and diagnostic projects, and eventually devise new microbiome-based therapies. I am particularly interested in investigating the connection between the microbiome and lupus, as this underexplored realm of study may bring findings that result in clinically translatable approaches.”
In collaboration with Rady Children’s, Dr. Knight has investigated the role of the microbiome in pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis and chronic airway disease. His previous work has linked microbes to a range of health conditions including obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.
“The collaboration between UCSD and Rady Children’s facilitates the development of new technology, drawing on the best ideas from the great minds at both organizations. The resulting innovations can then be employed on patient samples and used to inform patient care,” said Gabriel Haddad, MD, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience at UCSD. “Having worked extensively with Dr. Knight over the years, it is an understatement to say that I look forward to the future development of his research and the impact it will have on the patients at Rady Children’s.”
In 2017, Dr. Knight was honored with the highly prestigious Massry Prize and given the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award for his microbiome research in 2019. He has authored two books on microbiome research and is a co-founder of the Earth Microbiome Project, the American Gut Project, and the company Biota, Inc. He acquired his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the University of Otago and completed his Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at Princeton University.