Karla J.F. Satchell, Ph.D.

Karla J.F. Satchell, Ph.D.

Northwestern University

Dr. Karla Satchell (nee Fullner) earned her B.S. in biology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., in 1988 and completed a Ph.D. in microbiology in 1996 on molecular plant-microbe interaction at the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition, she conducted post-doctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh on mycobacterial phages and at Harvard Medical School on bacterial pathogenesis. During her post-doc, Satchell discovered a novel toxin now known as a representative of a large family of Multifunctional-Autoprocessing RTX toxins, or simply MARTX. 

Since joining the faculty at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago in 2000, Satchell has continued to conduct research on the MARTX toxin of Vibrio cholerae, building a diverse program including biochemical and cell biology studies on the mechanism of action of the toxin and the role of the toxin in infection using mouse models. Since 2008, Satchell has expanded her research program to include studies of MARTX toxins of other pathogens, including Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that causes severe sepsis from seafood consumption. Her most recent studies focus on how the MARTX toxins suppress intestinal immune responses to promote infection. She is also developing a novel protease activity of the toxin to be redirected to treat cancer. 

In 2017, Satchell became the principal investigator of a multi-site center in high throughput structure determination for microbial pathogens. Her group in the center partners with infectious diseases researchers to support their programs with structural biology, particularly on topics of mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance and bacterial pathogenesis. In 2020, the center shifted to the structural biology of SARS-CoV-2, and she established a research program on the viral methyltransferases as a target for novel therapeutics and on serum responses to COVID-19 infection impacting our understanding of molecular diagnostics. 

Across all the areas of research, Satchell has published more than 100 research articles. In recognition of her work, she was presented with a Burroughs Wellcome Investigators in Pathogenesis of Infectious Diseases Award in 2006. She has also been elected as a fellow for the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also active in teaching graduate students and, in 2016, was awarded the Driskill Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Satchell has served on the ASM Awards Selection Committee, the ASM Microbe Host-Microbe Biology Programming Committee and the editorial board for Infection and Immunity. She is currently the Basic Sciences Co-Chair for the 2023 and 2024 ASM Microbe Conferences.