Lance B. Price
Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Lance Price is one of those treasured scientists who also excels at communicating to non-scientists. As the director of the Center for Microbiomics and Human Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Price studies the human microbiome, or the ecology of the human body.
“Our bodies are basically walking ecosystems,” Price said. “On a cell-to-cell basis, we are outnumbered 10 to 1 by microorganisms on our bodies. We want to understand what are healthy and unhealthy microbiomes—and how the interaction of these systems can positively and negatively affect health.”
One of Price’s current projects is a NIH-funded study on the penis microbiome and how circumcision affects HIV susceptibility.
Another major focus of Price’s work is on food issues—primarily antibiotic use in animal feeding operations. Although he’s based at TGen in Arizona, Price travels to Washington D.C. every other month to serve as the Pew Commission’s Senior Scientific Advisor on human health and industrial farming. In that role, he educates Congressional staff on the risks of antibiotic resistance inherent in standard U.S. food production practices and advocates for legislation to limit the use of antibiotics in healthy animals.
Price also has a grant with Pew to test meat, poultry and fish in grocery stores across the U.S. for drug-resistant bacteria such as E. coli and MRSA.
As one of Center for a Livable Future’s first predoctoral fellows, Price says he is still grateful for the opportunities provided to him to do the research he was most interested in.
“If it wasn’t for that fellowship, I wouldn’t have been able to do this work—which is super exciting,” Price said. “I’m really motivated to do this work and feel an obligation to the program to do a good job and show that they made a good investment.”
One of the ways Price capitalizes on his various roles and opportunities is in the translation of the science into information that is meaningful for the general public and policy makers. Price confesses he spends hours drawing animations for Powerpoint presentations that get at the complicated science in a relatable way—while avoiding both excessive simplification and too much detail.
“So many people miscommunicate the science; I try to make it relatable and simple,” he said. “I spend a lot of time thinking how to communicate and help put the information into ‘chewable pieces.’”
In addition to ongoing collaborations with Pew and the Center, Price also regularly works with researchers from Denmark, the University of Maryland, and holds an appointment at the Health Policy Institute at Northern Arizona University.
These partnerships allow Price to bring the best scientific technologies to bear and support sound policies that promote human health.
“It’s thrilling to be able to unite the goals of CLF and Pew and bring them into the context of TGen with all its cutting edge tools to produce research to advance public health.”