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Irene Lepori

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Research areas include drug discovery in the context of multiple diseases. Research themes include Microbiome, Microbes, & Infectious Diseases (MMID).

Current Research
Dr. Lepori is investigating the complexity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell envelope with the final goal of improving antibiotic permeation and thus, efficacy in the ongoing fight against the deadly tuberculosis disease. Mycobacterium tuberculosis and mycobacteria in general, have a very peculiar cell envelope known to be an important barrier to drug penetration, making the microorganism intrinsically resistant to a lot of antibiotics treatment. Genetic approaches can’t be directly applied to the study of glycol- and lipid-based biomolecules/biopolymers, the major components of bacterial cell envelope. For that reason, she is using metabolic labeling and bioorthogonal chemistry to investigate the envelope complexity.

Dr. Lepori's interdisciplinary work uses microbiological, chemical, and bioinformatic/machine learning approaches to define the chemical motives/properties responsible for molecules (including but not limited to drugs) permeability or impermeability through the cell envelope. She aims at translating her research into a tool for antibiotic re-design, improving therapeutic outcomes for tuberculosis patients.

She is mainly interested in drug discovery in the context of multiple diseases. She started working on the development of new therapeutics for cancer treatment and is now focusing of pathogens bacteria.

A key tool for her interdisciplinary chemical-biological research is bioorthogonal chemistry, a chemistry that can be performed onto/into live systems. Dr. Lepori is currently using metabolic labeling and bioorthogonal chemistry to investigate the mechanisms underlying infection diseases progression (tuberculosis, sepsis, etc) at a molecular level, carried out side by side with the development of new classical or biotechnological drugs. Her research aims at laying the foundations for the development of future pharmacological therapies for clinical applications.

Learn more at https://www.umass.edu/natural-sciences/about/directory/irene-lepori

Academic Background

  • Postdoctoral training at National Council of Research (CNR), Pisa, Italy, 2019-2021

  • PhD Molecular Medicine, University of Siena, Italy, 2019

  • BA-MS Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology, University of Pisa, Italy, 2015

Liu Z, Lepori I, Chordia MD, Dalesandro BE, Guo T, Dong J, Siegrist MS, Pires MM. A Metabolic-Tag-Based Method for Assessing the Permeation of Small Molecules Across the Mycomembrane in Live Mycobacteria. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2023 May 8;62(20):e202217777. doi: 10.1002/anie.202217777. Epub 2023 Mar 6. PMID: 36700874; PMCID: PMC10159989.
Banahene N, Gepford DM, Biegas KJ, Swanson DH, Hsu YP, Murphy BA, Taylor ZE, Lepori I, Siegrist MS, Obregón-Henao A, Van Nieuwenhze MS, Swarts BM. A Far-Red Molecular Rotor Fluorogenic Trehalose Probe for Live Mycobacteria Detection and Drug-Susceptibility Testing. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2023 Jan 9;62(2):e202213563. doi: 10.1002/anie.202213563. Epub 2022 Dec 7. PMID: 36346622; PMCID: PMC9812908.
Ongwae GM, Lepori I, Chordia MD, Dalesandro BE, Apostolos AJ, Siegrist MS, Pires MM. Measurement of Small Molecule Accumulation into Diderm Bacteria. ACS Infect Dis. 2023 Jan 13;9(1):97-110. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.2c00435. Epub 2022 Dec 18. PMID: 36530146.
Pohane AA, Moore DJ, Lepori I, Gordon RA, Nathan TO, Gepford DM, Kavunja HW, Swarts BM, Siegrist MS. A Bifunctional Chemical Reporter for in Situ Analysis of Cell Envelope Glycan Recycling in Mycobacteria. ACS Infect Dis. 2022 Nov 11;8(11):2223-2231. doi: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.2c00396. Epub 2022 Oct 26. Erratum in: ACS Infect Dis. 2023 Jan 18;: PMID: 36288262; PMCID: PMC9924612.
Contact Info

Life Sciences Laboratories N260B
240 Thatcher Road
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

Office: (413) 545-6748
Email: ilepori@umass.edu