Wenyan Jiang

2021 Regional Award Finalist — Post-Doc

Wenyan Jiang

Current Position:
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Columbia University


Recognized for: Biologists aspire to understand every gene’s contribution to an organism’s biology and behavior. Microbiologist Wenyan Jiang, PhD, has helped to repurpose CRISPR-Cas, the bacteria’s immune system, and co-opt it to revolutionize the way scientists control and examine the genome. Jiang developed a groundbreaking tool, called CRISPR Adaptation-mediated Library Manufacturing (CALM), which exploits CRISPR RNA, a type of RNA that is naturally found in bacteria. CALM has enabled scientists to quickly determine the causal link between genes and bacterial behaviors such as antibiotic resistance and pathogenesis, and paved the way for rational development of new, effective antimicrobial drugs.

Wenyan Jiang

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: CRISPR-Cas, Antimicrobial Resistance, crRNA Libraries, Bacterial Single-cell RNA-sequencing

Previous Positions:

BS, Binghamton University
PhD, The Rockefeller University (Advisor: Luciano Marraffini)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Columbia University (Advisor: Saeed Tavazoie)

Research Summary:

Scientists have thus far been limited to studying only a few genes at a time. Microbiologist Wenyan Jiang, PhD, is removing these limitations by repurposing CRISPR-Cas, the bacteria’s immune system to create a tool called CRISPR Adaptation-mediated Library Manufacturing, also referred to as CALM. CALM allows scientists to simultaneously investigate all the genes in the genome for any bacterium by rapidly generating libraries of CRISPR RNA (crRNA). For around $100 and in a single day, CALM is able to produce libraries – lists of RNA sequences – twice the size compared to traditional methods which cost over $10,000 and take around two weeks to produce. Jiang has utilized CALM to identify novel molecular pathways that can be targeted to overcome antibiotic resistance. 

Traditional microbiology suffers from lacking tools to study what each and every bacterial cell is doing in a big population containing many bacterial species. This is not a trivial problem because oftentimes the bacteria that make us sick are a handful among a majority of harmless bacteria. Jiang tackled this challenge by developing high-throughput bacterial single-cell RNA sequencing technology, called PETRI-seq, that reveals the gene expression of individual bacterial cells in a big population and provides information critical to understand the genetic mechanisms of cellular growth and development.

The potential uses of PETRI-seq and CALM will allow for greater insight into genes affecting topics as wide ranging as microbial evolution, pathogenesis, drug-resistance, and the human microbiome.

"The CALM and PETRI-seq technologies I developed have the potential to solve problems in microbiology not addressable with existing methods. My goal is to continue developing novel molecular tools and tackling hard fundamental biological problems."

Key Publications:

  1. W. Jiang, P. Oikonomou, and S. Tavazoie. Comprehensive Genome-wide Perturbations via CRISPR Adaptation Reveal Complex Genetics of Antibiotic Sensitivity. Cell, 2020. 
  2. S.B. Blattman, W. Jiang, P. Oikonomou, and S. Tavazoie. Prokaryotic single-cell RNA sequencing by in situ combinatorial indexing. Nature Microbiology, 2020.

Other Honors:

2016Weintraub Graduate Student Award, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
2013Travel Award, National Science Foundation