Dr Joanne Kingsbury is a senior scientist with ESR’s Food, Water and Environmental Microbiology Group, and joined us in 2016.
Joanne earned her BSc (Honours) and PhD degrees in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Canterbury. For the past 15 years prior to joining ESR, she has worked as a research associate at Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina, USA.
At ESR, Joanne manages projects which isolate and identify the risks of disease-causing microbes, such as Salmonella and Listeria, in food and the food production and processing environments. Joanne is interested in employing whole genome sequencing approaches in the study of food and environmental contaminants. Compared with conventional culture-based strategies, DNA sequence information provides the opportunity for more detailed analyses; for example, identifying disease-causing traits or pin-pointing the sources of foodborne illnesses. Maintaining safe food production is paramount for the health of New Zealanders, and for protecting our multi-billion dollar food export industry. As such, Joanne works closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries, providing scientific input which may shape the development of food safety and food production standards.
At Duke, Joanne’s research employed molecular and genetic approaches to study diverse disease-related topics such as antifungal therapeutic strategies, fungal pathogenesis, and cancer-relevant cell signalling pathways. Much of her work has utilised the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Yeast is best known for its roles in baking and fermentation, and has also become a valuable tool in science to better understand how more complex cells function. In rare cases, yeast can also cause disease. Joanne has also worked with the clinically relevant fungi Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans, which cause life-threatening systemic infections; as well as Trichophyton and Malassezia, the causative agents of common skin afflictions such as nail infections, ringworm, dermatitis, and dandruff.
Building on her previous research experience, Joanne continues to be interested in the relevance of fungi to food safety, environmental, and human health. While fungi may be beneficial to the food industry, playing roles in fermentation and actually comprising a component of our diet (mushrooms), they may also contaminate food, producing “mycotoxins”, or contributing to food spoilage. Similarly, fungi play many and varied beneficial roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems; yet, also have the potential to cause myriad animal and human infections, ranging from the bothersome skin mycoses to life-threatening diseases described above.