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Janetta Hakovirta

Research Scholar

Fagen Lab

Varsity Research Building, Module 6, Room 1555

Dr. Janetta Hakovirta received her Ph.D. in Food Microbiology from University of Helsinki, Finland. She has worked for the federal government (Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM and CDC, Atlanta, GA) and academic research laboratories concentrating on development of faster methods to identify bacteria, quantify food preservatives and determine antimicrobial susceptibility of pathogens. She began her career at NCSU at the Department of Chemical and Molecular Engineering in the lab of Dr. Beisel investigating RNA aptamers as a countermeasure against CRISPR-based gene drives. She transferred to the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology in 2019. Currently, she uses CRISPR, phage and phage proteins as tools to combat plant pathogens and engineer microbial communities.

Resistance to traditional antimicrobial treatments is a concern in agriculture. To circumvent antimicrobial resistance, targeted antimicrobials are developed for specific microbes by using CRISPR, phages and phage proteins. However, in many cases, various characteristics (functional promoters, compatible plasmids, finding genes to target) are not as well identified as in the well-studied and easily culturable Escherichia coli. Presently, Dr. Hakovirta’s work concentrates more specifically with Xanthomonas spp. and ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’(CLas) to find these characteristics and compare the killing effects of different CRISPR Cas nucleases (Cas9, Cas12a, Cas13a) and the antitoxin/toxin system (phd/doc) by developing plasmid-and phage-based antimicrobials. She investigates these properties, designs plasmid constructs and tests them against targeted bacteria. The successful components are engineered into phages to improve the antimicrobial effects. Many of her constructs are used as bases in other projects in the group, such as combatting bacterial pathogens affecting a Mexican fruit fly rearing facility.

Another interest of Dr. Hakovirta’s is to investigate the antimicrobial effects of structural proteins of CLas SC1 prophage. However, CLas cultures are not sustainable in laboratory conditions adding another level of difficulty to work with this bacterium. However, our group has developed a pipeline where culturing is not required to synthesize these proteins. The proteins are tested on culturable L. crescens, closest relative to CLas, for antibiofilm and growth   effects. Further testing is completed in Texas with infected citrus trees and Asian citrus psyllid, insect vector for CLas. Dr. Hakovirta wishes to use these capabilities of synthesizing structural proteins and to develop the existing E.coli based in vitro cell-free systems for fastidious bacteria, such as CLas, to revive phages.

From her current and past projects, she has gained expertise in DNA sequencing, modern cloning techniques, qPCR, RNA by in vitro transcription, SELEX, protein synthesis and purification, phage engineering and working with pathogens in BSL2 an BSL3 laboratories.


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Ph.D., Food Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Finland (2008)
M.Sc., Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Finland (2004)
BA, Chemistry, University of Vermont (1997)