Leah Guthrie, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Stanford University School of Medicine, has been selected as a 2020 Hanna Gray Fellow through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The fellowship program selects exceptional early-career scientists with the goal of promoting diversity in biomedical research. Fellows receive funding through their academic institution for postdoctoral training and may continue to receive funding during their early career years as independent faculty.

Leah Guthrie portrait

Leah Guthrie (Image credit: Courtesy Leah Guthrie)

Guthrie, a microbiologist and immunologist in the Sonnenburg Lab, has been recognized for her work mapping how gut microbes metabolize certain acids found in foods such as apples, pears and artichokes. While these acids, known as hydroxycinnamic acids, are common in food, they accumulate at high levels in people with failing kidneys. By studying the byproducts produced when the acids are metabolized, Guthrie hopes to better understand their impact on the gut microbiome and their relationship to kidney disease.

“I want to understand the molecular mechanisms by which these microbial products shape human biology in ways that are beneficial or toxic for people with failing kidneys,” says Guthrie. “This work could lead to a better understanding of the causes of the cardiovascular, immunological and neurological symptoms associated with severe kidney failure and reveal gut microbe-targeted strategies to alleviate them.”

The Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program represents HHMI’s commitment to supporting talented early-career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in academic research. By selecting individuals from groups underrepresented in the life sciences, HHMI seeks to increase diversity among academic faculty and inspire future generations of scientists from the United States’ diverse talent pool.