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Frank T. Robb
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Frank T. Robb Ph.D.

Academic Title: Professor
Primary Appointment: Microbiology and Immunology
Location: Columbus Center, 701 E. Pratt Street, Room 5041, Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: (410) 234-8870
Phone: (410) 234-8872
Fax: (410) 234-8896
Lab: (410) 234-8871

Personal History:

Place of Birth: Cape Town, South Africa.


  • B. Sc.(Honours): 1969 University of Cape Town [Major: Zoology
  • Ph.D.: 1973 University of California, Riverside, USA. (Biology).

Professional Experience

  • 2010-present: University of Maryland, Baltimore. Dept of Microbiology and Immunology, Professor
  • 1995-2010: University of Maryland, Center of Marine Biotechnology, Professor.
  • 2000-2008: University of Maryland, Center of Marine Biotechnology, Associate Director.
  • 1996-1997: University of Maryland, Center of Marine Biotechnology, Acting Director.
  • 1988-94: University of Maryland, Center of Marine Biotechnology, Associate Professor.
  • 1989-93: Joint appointment: Univ. of Maryland, Dept. of Microbiology, UMCP, Associate Professor.
  • 1983-88: Univ. of Cape Town, Microbiology Dept, Rondebosch, South Africa. Associate Professor.
  • 1980-83: University of Cape Town, Microbiology Department. Senior Lecturer.
  • 1980-88: University of Cape Town, Microbiology Department. Acting Head. Temporary appointments to Acting Head for 4 - 8 weeks per year, with membership of the University Senate.
  • 1975-80: Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. Dept of Microbiology. Senior Lecturer.
  • 1974-75: Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. Department of Microbiology. Lecturer.

Research Interests:

Robb's main research interest is in hyperthermophiles that can survive and even thrive at temperatures up to 100°C (212°F), which in mere seconds can destroy DNA, "normal" proteins, and, hence, life. Dr. Frank Robb's main interest is learning specifically how these organisms can maintain stable proteins in the face of a thermal onslaught. His key focus is on heat shock proteins, known as chaperones, that the organisms produce to allow them to fold the proteins necessary for life. Robb and his colleagues are working toward various applications including using chaperones to improve high-temperature industrial or biomedical processes. The team, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is exploring methods that seek to enhance the durability and immunogenicity of live vaccines through expression of heat shock proteins from thermophiles. If successful, the project will enable enhanced long term storage of vaccines in locations lacking refrigeration, for example in developing nations.

Another area of research is in tapping the thermophiles' penchant for producing hydrogen as a byproduct in order to develop new hydrogen production methods to add to the arsenal of technology needed for future supplies of renewable energy. Recent work has also focused on extremely stable cellulases for exploiting woody feedstocks for biofuel production.

The search for thermophiles has taken Robb to some exotic locales, including deep-sea hydrothermal vents, geothermal springs in the volcanic regions of New Zealand, Iceland, Eastern Russia's Kamchatka, as well as Yellowstone and Lassen National Parks.

Lab Techniques and Equipment:

Recombinant expression, site directed mutagenesis and biohysical characterization. Genome sequencing and analysis.


Laksanalamai P, Whitehead TA, Robb FT. (2004) Minimal protein-folding systems in hyperthermophilic archaea. Nature Rev. Microbiol. 2(4):315 - 324.

Laksanalamai, P, Robb FT. (2004) Small heat shock proteins from extremophiles: a review. Extremophiles. 8(1): 1-11.

DiRuggiero, J and F. T. Robb (2004) Early DNA repair and replication systems. In: "Evolution of the Genetic Code." Luis Ribas de Pamplona, Ed.

Krausova VI, Robb FT, Gonzalez JM. (2004) Bacterial degradation of dichloromethane in cultures and natural environments. J Microbiol. Methods. 54(3):419-22.

Wu M, Ren Q, Durkin AS, Daugherty SC, Brinkac LM, Dodson RJ, Madupu R, Sullivan SA, Kolonay JF, Nelson WC, Tallon LJ, Jones KM, Ulrich LE, Gonzalez JM, Zhulin IB, Robb FT, Eisen JA (2006) Life in hot carbon monoxide: The complete genome sequence of Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans Z-2901. PLoS Genet. 1:563-574

Gavrilov SN, Slobodkin AI, Robb FT, de Vries S. (2007) Characterization of membrane-bound Fe(III)-EDTA reductase activities of the thermophilic Gram-positive dissimilatory iron-reducing bacterium Thermoterrabacterium ferrireducens. Mikrobiologiia.76(2):164-71.

Gonzalez J M and F T Robb (2007) Counterselection of prokaryotic ribosomal RNA during reverse transcription using non-random hexameric oligonucleotides. J Microbiol Methods. 26; 1767-1796.

Chernyh NA, Gavrilov SN, Sorokin VV, German KE, Sergeant C, Simonoff M, Robb FT, Slobodkin AI. (2007) Characterization of technetium(vII) reduction by cell suspensions of thermophilic bacteria and archaea. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol.76(2):467-72.

Sun, Y., N. Makarava, C-I. Lee, P. Laksanalamai, F. T. Robb and I. V. Baskakov (2008) Conformational stability of PrP amyloid fibrils controls their smallest possible fragment size. J. Molecular Biology 376(4):1155 - 1167.

Laksanalamai P, Narayan S, Luo H, Robb FT (2009) Chaperone action of a versatile small heat shock protein from Methanococcoides burtonii, a cold adapted archaeon. Proteins 75(2):275-81

Wu, D, J. Raymond, M. Wu, S. Chatterji, Q. Ren, JE Graham, D.A Bryant, AS Colman, FT Robb, LJ Talon, J Badger, R. Madupu, NL Ward and JA Eisen (2009) Complete genome sequence of the CO-oxidizing extreme thermophile, Thermomicrobium roseum. PLoS One, 4(1):e4207.

Sparks WB, J.H.Hough, L.Kolokolova, T.Germer, F.Chen, S.DasSarma, P.DasSarma, F.T. Robb, N.Manset, I.N.Reid, F.D.Macchetto, W.Martin (2009) Detection of circular polarization in light scattered from photosynthetic microbes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 106(19):7816-21

Techtmann, ST, AS Colman and FT Robb (2009) That which does not kill us only makes us stronger: The role of carbon monoxide in thermophilic consortia. Environ. Microbiol. 11(5):1027-37.

Sparks WB, J.H.Hough, L.Kolokolova, T.Germer, F.Chen, S.DasSarma, P.DasSarma, F.T. Robb, N.Manset, I.N.Reid, F.D.Macchetto, W.Martin (2009) Circular polarization in scattered light as a possible biomarker. JQSRT. doi:10.1016/j.jqsrt.2009.02.028

Luo H, Laksanalamai P, Robb FT. (2009) An exceptionally stable Group II chaperonin from the hyperthermophile Pyrococcus furiosus. Arch Biochem Biophys. 486:12-18.

Lauro, F M, D. McDougald, T Thomas, T J Williams, S Egan, S Rice, M Z. DeMaere, L. Ting, Haluk Ertan, J Johnson, S. Ferriera, A. Lapidus, I. Anderson, N. Kyrpides, A. C Munk, C Detter, CS. Han, MV. Brown, FT. Robb, S Kjelleberg, and R. Cavicchioli. (2009) Feature Article: The genomic basis of trophic strategy in marine bacteria. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA 106:15527-15533. Cover.

Techtmann, S and F.T. Robb (2010) Archaeal-like chaperones in bacteria. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA. 107 (47) 20269-20274.

Luo H and Robb FT (2010) Protein folding systems in thermophiles. in The Extremophile Handbook (Springer,Tokyo). Eds. K Horikoshi, WR Grant, G Antranikian and F. T. Robb.

Cowan D A, Tuffin I M and Robb F T (2010) Sequence First, Ask Questions Later: The Impact of Next Generation-Omics on the Discovery of Novel Microbial and Lipid Hydrocarbon Metabolism. Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 10.1007/978-3-540-77587-4_259 Ed: Kenneth N. Timmis

Techtmann SM, Colman AS, Murphy M, Schackwitz W, Goodwin L and Robb FT (2011). Regulation of multiple carbon monoxide consumption pathways in anaerobic bacteria. Front. Microbio. 2:147. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2011.00147

Graham JE, Clark ME, Nadler DC, Huffer S, Chokhawala HA, Rowland SE, Blanch HW, Clark DS, Robb FT (2011). Identification and characterization of a multidomain hyperthermophilic cellulase from an archaeal enrichment. Nat Commun.;2:375. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1373.

Luo H, Robb FT. (2011) A modulator domain controlling thermal stability in the Group II chaperonins of Archaea. Arch Biochem Biophys. 512(1):111-8. PMID:21893040

Luo H, Zhang P, Robb FT (2011) Oligomerization of an archaeal group II chaperonin is mediated by N-terminal salt bridges. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 413(2):389-94. PMID:21893040.

Kurouski,D, Luo, H, Sereda, V, Robb FT and Lednev IK. (2012) Rapid degradation kinetics of amyloid fibrils under mild conditions by an archaeal chaperonin. Biochim. Biophys. Res. Commun. 422,  97–102.

Techtmann SM, Lebedinsky AV, Colman AS, Sokolova TG, Woyke T, Goodwin L, Robb FT. (2012) Evidence for horizontal gene transfer of anaerobic carbon monoxide dehydrogenases. Front Microbiol. 3:132-145.

W Sparks, J H. Hough, T A. Germer, FT Robb and  L Kolokolova (2012) Remote sensing of chiral signatures on Mars. Planetary and Space Science. 72:111–115.

Robb FT, Lowe TM, Kelman Z. (2013) The modern "3G" age of archaeal molecular biology. Front. Microbiol. 3:430. PMC3527003.

Kurouski D, Luo H, Sereda V, Robb FT, Lednev IK (2013) Deconstruction of stable cross-Beta fibrillar structures into toxic and nontoxic products using a mutated archaeal chaperonin. ACS Chem Biol. 2013 Sep 20;8(9):2095-101. doi: 10.1021/cb400238a.


Jermy A. (2011) Nat Rev Microbiol. 9(9):631. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2639. Turning up the heat on biomass degradation.

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