“I’m delighted and honored to receive this very personal, very vocal and very meaningful award,” Bassler said. “It is a privilege to live and work in this state, and I thank the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce for supporting the economic engine on which New Jersey relies.”
“Your advocacy, especially in the realm of innovation, provides a healthy environment in which the members of my team and I are encouraged to live within our minds … with the grand goal of making medicines that will improve human health across the globe,” Bassler said.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce created the Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Award last year to celebrate and salute the role women have played in New Jersey’s rich legacy of innovation, and to encourage gender diversity in business.
“The importance of Bonnie’s work cannot be overestimated, as medical professionals report more and more strains of bacteria becoming resistant to current antibiotics,” Tom Bracken, CEO and president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said. “Bonnie’s work is crucial to the medical field and equally important in ensuring New Jersey remains a leader in medical research.”
After receiving additional congratulations from Linda Bowden, regional president of PNC Bank and vice chairman of the board of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and a congratulatory video message from Lt.Gov. Kim Guadagno, Bassler was introduced by the undergraduates, graduates and post-doctorates that comprise her research team.
“These scientists came to work with me in spite of my being a woman, knowing that by partnering with me, their work would also be undervalued,” Bassler said. “These are the women and men who made the discoveries for which I am being honored. I accept this award on behalf of my lab and I thank you for this prize that celebrates women’s contributions to science and innovation.”
Princeton University hired Bassler, a Chicago native, in 1994 after she had earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University.
“Princeton gave me a shot by hiring me at a time when my scientific ideas that bacteria can communicate and act as collectives were completely fringe and most certainly not embraced by the scientific community,” Bassler said. “That was compounded with the issue that, 22 years ago, science departments rarely hired women.
“The New Jersey school bucked both of those trends when they took me on. I made my home here, I built my lab here and, ultimately, people from all over the world moved to New Jersey to work with me.”
Bassler said she is lucky that one of the only gender-diversified Tier One biology departments in the country noticed her.
“That is probably why I succeeded,” she said. “I am so lucky to work in this fantastic department at Princeton University where they have built a non-bias culture.”
Bassler Lab at Princeton conducts research into how bacteria communicate with one another through a chemical process called “quorum sensing” to coordinate their invasions of plants, animals and people.
“My lab showed that bacteria require cell-to-cell communication to cause infection. They work in groups to kill you,” Bassler said. “Our idea is to interfere with bacterial communication to stop bacteria from harming us. Such communication manipulation strategies would form the basis of entirely new antibiotics, contributing to one of the world’s most pressing and unmet needs.
“Such medicines, because they interfere with communication rather than kill harmful bacteria, would work in fundamentally different ways than any antibiotic has ever worked in history.”
Bassler hopes her team’s research will help to stop “superbugs” from becoming even more prevalent.
For Fry’s full story, click here.