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Reducing the Impact of Infectious Diseases by Supporting Trans-Disciplinary Academic Research


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Anselmo Canfora

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Anselmo Canfora founded Initiative reCOVER at the University of Virginia in 2007.  Initiative reCOVER is a research project established to assist underserved populations through partnerships with humanitarian, community-based organizations, professional firms, and manufacturers.  In the classroom and in the field reCOVER promotes a collaborative entrepreneurial interdisciplinary spirit in service of hands-on, design-build learning experiences, and the advancement of building technologies, methods, and materials.  Based on a fundamental philosophy that design and building processes are dialectically interdependent, a building – or the act of building – is not simply considered a result, outcome, or even a product of design, but instead it is promoted as a collaborative effort well informed by thoughtful research, substantive interdisciplinary exchanges, and direct community involvement.  Canfora’s research and teaching center on two recurring themes in the architecture discipline: The tools and craft of building, and the people for whom buildings are made.

James Casanova

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James Casanova is a Professor in the Department of Cell Biology. Dr. Casanova has been studying the relationships between bacterial pathogens and their hosts for many years. Much of this work has been focused on the enteric pathogen Salmonella, and the mechanisms through which it infects and survives within host cells. Using a combination of in vitro (cell culture) and in vivo (animal) models, these studies have identified host processes that are actively manipulated by the bacterium for its own survival, and characterized them at the molecular level. The laboratory is also actively pursuing the mechanisms of bacterial recognition by the innate immune system, and how the innate immune response is generated in response to that recognition. As a cell biologist, Dr. Casanova will contribute his expertise in the host response to infectious disease at the cellular and molecular level.

Anna Cliffe

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Dr. Anna Cliffe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology. Dr. Cliffe investigates the mechanisms of Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) and HSV-2 persistence in neurons. Approximately 90% of the world’s population is infected with either HSV-1 or HSV-2. The viruses persist for life in the form a latent infection in peripheral neurons. Periodically the viruses can reactivate to cause disease including genital lesions, keratoconjunctivitis and encephalitis. The Cliffe lab is interested in the unique properties of neurons that permit a latent infection with HSV-1 and HSV-2. Using primary and differentiated neurons along with animal models, they are investigating how neurons sense and respond to HSV infection. In particular, how neurons sense incoming virus at the natural site of infection on the axon and how signals are transmitted to the neuronal nucleus to result in silencing of the viral genome. Although cell stress is associated with reactivation from latency, the mechanism by which viral gene expression is initiated following stress is not understood. The Cliffe lab is investigating the molecular pathways that trigger HSV-1 and HSV-2 to reactivate from latent infection. Neonatal HSV infection is a major public health concern as the risk of encephalitis following transmission of the viruses to the newborn can be as high as 30%. To understand whether changes during maturation of neurons alters their susceptibility to virus infection, the Cliffe lab is examining differences in innate immune responses and HSV infection in neonatal, mature and aged neurons. This work has relevance to other neurotropic viruses, many of which show different outcomes following infection of neonates compared to adults. The long-term goals are to understand how neurons respond to viral infection and how HSV latency is maintained and reactivated. Ultimately, the Cliffe lab aims to develop new therapies to prevent reactivation of HSV-1 and HSV-2.