Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Kristen E. Whalen
Kristen E. Whalen's photoKristen E. Whalen
Research Scientist
Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry

Contact Information:
Work: 508 289 3627
Building: Watson Building 111

Mailing Address:
Mailstop 51
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole, MA 02543


As a scientist, Kristen's expertise ranges from cellular/molecular biology, biochemistry, toxicology, physiology and marine natural product isolation. Kristen has published eleven scientific research publications, has given over 28 scientific presentations, lectures, and posters; and serves as a reviewer for 15 peer-reviewed scientific journals and governmental funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation.

Research Interests

Ecologically Inspired Drug Discovery

Recently, Kristen's efforts have been successful in identifying efflux pump inhibitors from marine natural product libraries to treat multidrug resistant Gram-negative pathogens. Her research has lead to a recent paper published in the Journal of Natural Products and a NIH Grant.

Her work has been featured in a recent issue of Proto Magazine. The story is entitled "Testing the Waters".

Enhancement of Antibiotic Activity against Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria by the Efflux Pump Inhibitor 3,4-Dibromopyrrole-2,5-dione Isolated from a Pseudoalteromonas sp., K.Whalen, K. Poulson, R. Deering, D. Rowley, T. Mincer (2015) Journal of Natural Products (DOI:10.1021/np500775e)


National Institute of Health - National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (R21). Discovery and development of RND pump inhibitors from marine microbial sources. - Authored proposal with support of T. Mincer. July 2015 - July 2017.

In April 2015, Kristen was invited to present at the Early Stage Life Sciences Technology Conference XI at Merck Research Laboratories to discuss the technology she has developed while at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. This forum showcased 16 life science technologies developed at research institutions and recently formed companies to an audience of angel investors, venture capitalists and corporate investors.

Kristen and Tracy Mincer were awarded WHOI's Ignition Grant for 2013 for the development of marine natural products to treat multidrug resistance. This funding has led to a provisional patent submission.

Cellular Chemoprotection

Kristen's interest in transporter biology led her to develop new methods for immunolocalization of multidrug transporters in sea urchin embryos using Super-Resolution microscopy. This technology has facilitated the characterization of transporter positioning during efflux initiation in the embryo.

She was awarded the 2012 ABC Young Investigator Award by the colleagues at the 4th FEBS Special Meeting on ABC Transporter proteins: From Multidrug Resistance to Genetic Diseases for her work examining the interplay of actin dynamics on transporter function in the developing embryo.

Media on Kristen's Research

Media on Drug Discovery:

Media on Kristen's ProjectWHOI campaign: https://youtube/pXXWoOk9Rr8

Cover Art

Super-resolution micrograph of the surface of a sea urchin embryo 60 min after fertilization. The multidrug transporter ABCB1a (magenta) has moved to the tips of the microvilli (green, actin), thereby establishing efflux activity. See the article by Whalen et al. 2012 of this issue of MBoC. (Image: Kristen Whalen, Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Crowdfunding for Drug Discovery

Kristen recently concluded a WHOI crowdfunding campagin entitled "New Weapons Against Superbugs".  Check it out:

Kristen discussed her work on ecologically inspired drug discovery on WCAI - Cape and Islands NPR on Living Lab.  To hear this interview, click here.

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