The American Academy of Microbiology has named three Washington University faculty members as fellows: Herbert W. “Skip” Virgin, M.D., Ph.D., Himadri B. Pakrasi, Ph.D., and Michael Diamond, M.D., Ph.D.
Virgin, Mallinckrodt Professor and head of Pathology and Immunology at the School of Medicine and director of the Midwest Regional Center for Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (MRCE), investigates how viruses manipulate and evade the immune systems of host organisms. He studies the physiological effects of chronic viral infections, such as increased risk of tumors, the contributions of viruses to inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, and how viruses train the immune system to respond effectively to infection. He is also active in the search for previously unidentified disease-causing pathogens.
Pakrasi, the George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, professor of energy in engineering and director of the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability, is recognized for his work on photosynthesis and bioenergy production. His researchgroup has focused on the biochemistry, biophysics and genetics of photosynthetic microbes. He is interested in bridging the differences between the biological and physical sciences and leads large-scale multi-institutional systems biology projects that involve more than 40 co-investigators at the interface of various scientific disciplines from the United States and other countries.
Diamond, professor of medicine, of molecular microbiology and of pathology and immunology at the School of Medicine and co-director of the MRCE, studies how viruses cause disease; the basic mechanisms the immune system uses to control viruses, including the structural details of how antibodies work; and novel ways viruses have for avoiding these defenses. He seeks to adapt what he learns toward treatment and prevention of infection by viruses such as West Nile virus, dengue virus and hepatitis C. Diamond led the design and testing of a monoclonal West Nile antibody that is now in clinical trials.