Mary O’Sullivan

I am a second year postdoctoral research fellow working in the labs of Professors Alan Cheng and Anthony Ricci to prevent aminoglycoside-induced hearing loss – one of the most common, preventable forms of deafness. Aminoglycosides are critical antibiotics that are most commonly used to treat gram-negative bacterial infections. While aminoglycosides are often life-saving, in some instances they can trigger hearing loss. There are currently no approved therapies to protect the ear from aminoglycoside toxicity, and the only treatment options available are hearing aids and cochlear implantation. As part of the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss, my work follows a novel, multi-disciplinary approach to develop designer aminoglycosides that maintain antibacterial activity but cannot enter sensory hair cells in the ear, cells that are the most susceptible to aminoglycoside-induced damage.

Prior to joining the Cheng and Ricci research teams, I studied for a Bachelor of Science at University College Cork, Ireland and a Masters of Research at Imperial College London, UK. While at Imperial, I became fascinated by how components of the cell worked at the atomic scale and its potential biomedical applications. In 2011, intrigued by the structural basis of aminoglycoside-related hearing loss, I moved to University College London to the labs of Professors Bitner-Glindzicz and Rahman at the UCL Institute of Child Health for my PhD research. For my thesis, I examined the molecular mechanics of aminoglycoside hearing loss in patients. In 2015, I was awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral research fellowship to continue may work developing safer aminoglycoside antibiotics.

Mary O'Sullivan