Research Interests and Accomplishments
Michael Montague's graduate research was in the lab of Clyde A. Hutchison III, at UNC Chapel Hill, and featured a synergy of wet-lab and bioinformatic methods. He focused upon the identification and analysis of protein families in several contexts. Using herpes virus genomes as a model system, he developed improvements to the COG method of constructing protein families, and explored the phylogenetic characteristics of the resulting dataset. Later, he developed a method of phylogeny directed identification of coevolving amino acids in a multiple sequence alignment. This generated a series of hypotheses for the roles of individual amino acids in the HIV reverse transcriptase that were then tested by characterization of site directed mutants. These experimental results were then used to further improve the alignment analysis in a double feedback loop improving both the computational analysis and the direction of the laboratory research.
He has been at the J. Craig Venter Institute since September 2005 initially as a post-doc, and now as a Staff Scientist. In his work at JCVI, he has continued this mixed bioinformatic and wet-lab approach. He has worked on a variety of projects including: the design of degenerate primers for detection of HPV species, analysis of viral metagenomic data, phylogenetic analysis of RecD with regards to the D. radiodurans DNA repair system, bridge amplification, design and testing of degenerate and discriminating primers intended for domain specific amplification of 16S gene sequence, characterization of the restriction enzymes of M. mycoides LC, and M. capricolum, statistical analysis of the efficiency of the yeast spheroplast DNA assembly method, and the mentoring of high school intern Kettner Griswold Jr.
Recently, Michael has been involved in several aspects of the work to create a synthetic cell. He has done quality-control work to confirm that the sequences of the 1KB, 10KB, 100KB, and complete-genome stages of the assembly of the synthetic cell's genome were correct and had no errors. Michael also designed the watermarks that were encoded into the synthetic genome, and the system by which they were encoded.
Michael's current work involves, proteomics to support the minimal-genome project, efforts to extend the methods used in the synthetic cell to non-Mycoplasma, and use of synthetic biology techniques in drug discovery.