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


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Girija Ramakrishnan

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Girija Ramakrishnan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Ramakrishnan’s interest at the bench is in the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis with special regard to nutrient acquisition in the host environment. A major focus of her research is the bacterium Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia or rabbit fever. A more recent research interest is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis. Dr. Ramakrishnan seeks to understand the role played by the essential nutrient iron in the infection biology of pathogen and host. She is currently working towards establishing a collaborative study with researchers in The Gambia on the closely related organism Mycobacterium africanum. Dr. Ramakrishnan is involved in an international study aimed at understanding environmental enteropathy and susceptibility to infection in Bangladesh and Pakistan populations; investigating if a metabolomics-based approach can be used to evaluate nutritional status and inflammation in young children.

David Rekosh

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David Rekosh is Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, the Myles H. Thaler Professor of Medical Science and Director of the Myles H. Thaler Center for AIDS and Human Retrovirus Research. He has been working on HIV molecular biology since 1985, with continuous grant support from NIH and has made many fundamental and important discoveries about HIV and retrovirus gene regulation Since 2005, he has been involved in work in South Africa in collaboration with Dr. Pascal Bessong, at the University of Venda (UNIVEN). Through this work they have been defining the types of circulating HIV found in Limpopo province and examining emerging drug resistance. This has included work with a study cohort of about 700 HIV infected individuals at an HIV clinic in the Bela-Bela township and developing relationships with other clinics and hospitals in Northern South Africa. This collaborative project has also involved him in the training South African students in his laboratories at UVa and he is also has become an active mentor of students working in Dr. Bessong’s lab at UNIVEN. Additionally, since 2010, he has been involved in capacity building and science education at UNIVEN, where he has annually organized and taught a two-week laboratory workshop and lecture series in molecular biology to honors undergraduate students and graduate students. He also has taught students from the secondary schools of Limpopo province, South Africa, through his work with the Vuwani Science Resource Centre, a science outreach Centre at UNIVEN. This work has included mentoring a University of Virginia Jefferson Public Citizens group consisting of 4 undergraduates and a biochemistry graduate student, who taught at the Centre for 10 weeks in the summer of 2013.

Stephen S. Rich

Stephen S. Rich is Harrison Professor of Public Health Sciences and Director of the Center of Public Health Genomics. Dr. Rich has a background in genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics, genome sciences and applications of genomics to complex human disease. As Director of the Center for Public Health Genomics, he is responsible for the research, education and service of over a dozen resident faculty in the Center, developing their independent research programs in molecular genetics, statistical and population genetics, and computational biology. Dr. Rich also oversees the Center’s Genome Sciences Laboratory, which serves as a focus on modern genomic technology that is used by resident faculty and in collaboration with affiliated faculty and others across the School of Medicine and across Grounds. Dr. Rich’s collaborative research has included a genome-wide association scan for loci contributing to the failure to respond to dietary supplementation in the context of malnutrition. Each of these efforts brings together faculty from across the University as well as national and international consortia for interdisciplinary research, including the Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium, the Exome Sequencing Project, and the Trans-omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program.

Elizabeth Rogawski

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Elizabeth Rogawski is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health. She received her PhD in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a focus in infectious disease epidemiology and international health. Her research interests are in pediatric enteric disease, and specifically, on the complex interactions between early childhood diarrhea, enteropathogen infections, environmental enteropathy, antibiotic use, and their effects on child health and development. The majority of her fieldwork has been based in South Africa and India. As a faculty fellow in the Center for Global Health, she works with a multidisciplinary team of collaborators and students to study the effectiveness of a point-of-use water treatment technology to prevent child stunting in rural South Africa. She is also interested in developing novel causal inference-based methods to generate epidemiologic evidence that is relevant to public health interventions and policy in the field of global infectious diseases.

Jennifer Rubenstein

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Melanie Rutkowski

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Melanie Rutkowski is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology. Dr. Rutkowski’s primary research interest is to understand how disruption of commensal homeostasis, or commensal dysbiosis, influences systemic immune function. Age, diet, chronic use of antibiotics, or systemic inflammation due to infection can alter the composition and function of the commensal ecosystem. This can significantly impact the function of the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system. The Rutkowski lab is characterizing how acute changes to commensal equilibrium influence myeloid homeostasis and function, tissue fibrosis, and adaptive immune function in healthy and diseased conditions. The laboratory is also interested in characterizing disease susceptibilities and immune function in individuals that lack the ability to sense microbial products through TLR5, an innate signaling receptor. Approximately 7.5% of individuals harbor a polymorphism in TLR5, reducing the ability to signal through this receptor almost completely. Although this polymorphism is compatible with a healthy lifestyle, we have previously shown that individuals lacking TLR5 have differing susceptibilities to breast and ovarian cancer, compared to individuals with functional TLR5. However, there remains unknown disease etiologies associated with the absence of TLR5. It is the goal of the laboratory to understand how innate cells, primarily dendritic cells, that lack the ability to signal through this receptor develop and function in various pathological/inflammatory contexts.