(before 2013) Candida albicans; Antifungal; Mode-of-action; Multidrug resistance; Morphology
(after 2013) Synthetic biology; CRISPR; Metabolic engineering; Actinomycetes; Natural products
2008, Yaojun started his research career as a PhD student in Prof. Lixin Zhang’s lab @ Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. He conducted projects on elucidating the antifungal / synergistic antifungal mechanism of three natural products, beauvericin, rapamycin, and berberine, as well as how they can overcome multi-drug resistance of C. albicans. He was maintaining and optimizing the high throughput platform of antifungal / synergistic antifungal in Zhang lab. He was also involved in projects on studying the relationship between drug susceptibility and morphology of C. albicans in Prof. Guanghua Huang’s lab @ Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
After getting his PhD, he realized that the world is no shortage of researches for mode-of-action studies of natural products, neither researches are to provide enough bioactive natural products. He made a tough decision of dedicating himself to finding more natural products, even though he had to almost abandon the training he got from his PhD and started from scratch.
2013, Yaojun joined Prof. Sang Yup Lee and Prof. Tilmann Weber‘s lab at Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, Technical University of Denmark. Working on developing synthetic biology / metabolic engineering related genetic manipulation tools for actinomycetes, which are one of the most important resources of natural products. Unfortunately, many of them are extremely difficult to be genetically manipulated, which heavily restricts the further discovery of novel / bioactive natural products. To address this problem, Dr. Tong pioneered CRISPR based genetic manipulation systems for actinomycetes, he established the most comprehensive CRISPR toolkit for actinomycetes. This toolkit shortens the operation times of manipulating an actinomyces gene with up to 80 %. His work is widely praised by peers. The systems have been distributed to 100 + labs world-widely.
He never stops, currently, he is working on developing some even more advanced synthetic biology tools for bacteria and also designing and constructing microbial cell factories.