New faculty build on UGA's biomedical strengths
New faculty recruited to UGA will expand the university’s strengths in infectious diseases and glycoscience.
Ted M. Ross, who is currently director of the vaccines and viral immunity program at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida, will join the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine in fall 2015 as the GRA Eminent Scholar in Infectious Diseases.
His expertise complements the University of Georgia’s growing research enterprise in infectious disease and will strengthen the university’s ties to vaccine researchers at other institutions and with Georgia’s economically important life sciences industry.
Ross’ research focuses on designing, developing and testing vaccines for viral diseases such as influenza, dengue fever, respiratory syncytial virus, chikungunya virus, Ebola and HIV/AIDS. The work he began while a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh to create a universal vaccine to protect against all strains of seasonal and pandemic influenza has resulted in a new vaccine platform. In 2012, an agreement was signed between Sanofi Pasteur and the University of Pittsburgh for continued development and commercialization of influenza vaccines based upon this platform.
Ross is conducting his research with nearly $18 million in external funding from a variety of federal agencies, foundations and corporate sponsors. Over the course of his nearly 20 year career, he has garnered more than $33 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense and PATH Vaccine Solutions/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.
Robert Haltiwanger, currently head of biochemistry and cell biology at Stony Brook University, will join UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center in fall 2015 as the GRA Eminent Scholar in Biomedical Glycoscience.
The Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, recognized as a world-class research facility, is devoted to understanding the many important roles of sugars that are added in diverse complex combinations to proteins and other biological molecules that are responsible for life.
One of UGA’s most successful research programs, the CCRC has 16 faculty-led groups working on a variety of research problems, from plants to humans. These include the efficient breakdown of biomass for conversion to biofuels and bioproducts, unraveling of the molecular signaling that controls all biological processes and the development of new diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive treatments for human diseases.
At the CCRC, Haltiwanger will help to expand existing or lead new avenues of investigation in cancer, congenital disorders, cardiovascular disease and other important areas of human medicine, including the development of therapies. His expertise also will provide a bridge between the CCRC and the capabilities of the new Center for Molecular Medicine, which includes a program on glycoscience applications to human medicine.
Daniel R. Pérez, whose work focuses on the interspecies transmission and pathogenesis of avian influenza virus, will join the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine as its new Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator and Caswell Eidson Chair in Poultry Medicine this month.
Based at the Department of Population Health at the Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center (PDRC), Pérez’s work on avian influenza virus interspecies transmission and control will complement a robust research effort on poultry respiratory disease viruses at PDRC and build on an active and successful program focused on influenza virus surveillance, diagnosis and control in the College.
Pérez also studies virus-to-virus and virus-to-host protein interactions in the influenza A virus lifecycle, as well as the role of land-based birds in the emergence of influenza A viruses with pandemic potential. He also works on the development of alternative influenza vaccination platforms, and the development of influenza virus as a vector for vaccinating against other diseases.
Christine Szymanski, currently a professor in the biological sciences and medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, joins UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Center in fall 2015.
At the CCRC, and with a joint appointment in the department of microbiology, she will continue her basic research on bacterial glycosylation and expand her applied research related to vaccine development, especially for veterinary applications. Dr. Szymanski’s research involves examining host-pathogen interactions in order to understand and exploit virulence mechanisms used by bacteria colonizing mucosal surfaces.
Szymanski is also a principal investigator at the Alberta Glycomics Centre and CEO and co-founder of VaxAlta Inc., a start-up company based on her work at the Alberta Glycomics Centre. The company develops glycoconjugate vaccines that target bacterial pathogens that impact animal health and human food safety, including campylobacter, streptococcus, clostridium, salmonella and e. coli species.