University of Massachusetts Medical School

55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655 

UMass Memorial Medical Center

Memorial Campus
119 Belmont Street
Worcester, MA 01605


Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology

Faculty Research Interests

Basic Science Research Faculty

Robert Finberg, MD
Chair, Department of Medicine

My laboratory works on the relationships between host cell surface proteins and viruses and bacteria, and the basis of cellular activation mediated by cell surface proteins. Virus receptor proteins (and viral pathogenesis), the use of several transgenic CAR expressing mouse strains are being studied and a CAR knock-out being created. Viral genes and the host: induction of virus specific immune responses, the laboratory has pioneered in defining a major role for "pattern recognition proteins" CD 14 and Toll-like receptors in viral pathogenesis andimmunity. Host cell surface proteins and the basis of cellular activation events, focused on the definition of the role of CD14 and the Toll like receptor (TLR) proteins and their interactions in virus and bacterial induced signal transduction events.

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Douglas Golenbock, MD
Division Chief, Infectious Diseases and Immunology

My major interest relates to the ability of the innate immune system to recognize the presence of microbial pathogens and respond to them, thus marshaling the necessary forces for host defense. In the process of responding to infection, the host plays an important role of the pathogenesis of disease. The interests of the people in my lab are relatively diverse, although always within this framework. The major focus over the last decade and a half has been the recognition of bacterial endotoxin by phagocyte receptors, in an effort to understand the pathogenesis of Gram-negative sepsis. These studies brought us into the field of Toll-like receptors (or TLRs), a broad area of innate immunity that has now had our nearly undivided attention since 1997. In studying TLRs, we have learned a great deal about a variety of infectious illnesses, including Group B streptococcus, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, lymphocytic choriomeningitis and, most recently, malaria. My interest in malaria has resulted in the development of an international collaboration with colleagues in Brazil, where we conduct field studies in the Amazonian city of Porto Velho on the basis of fever and inflammation in acute P. falciparum. Our studies have carried us beyond TLRs as well, into areas of autoimmunity, including diseases as important as systemic lupus erythematosis (a disease to which TLRS 7,8 and 9 are important contributors) and to inflammasome-mediated disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

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Daniel Caffrey
Assistant Professor
Ricardo Gazzinelli, DSc, DVM

Many parasite target antigens as well as mechanisms involving acquired immunity in host resistance to protozoan infections have been defined over the years. However, the same cannot be said about innate immune mechanisms involved in initial host resistance, initiation of immune responses and pathogenesis during infection with this class of pathogens. The lack of information in this area seams to be an important impediment for development of effective prophylactic as well as therapeutic immunologic-based protocols to prevent or treat these diseases. Therefore, the main scientific interests of my laboratory are: (i) to understand the role of innate immunity on host resistance and pathogenesis to infection with protozoan parasites; and (ii) to develop vaccines that induce cell-mediated immunity and protection against protozoan infections. When possible, we try to address our questions regarding host-parasite interactions, employing cellular systems, experimental rodent models and primary cells derived from well-characterized patients undergoing specific protozoan infection. My research program is developed at the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Department of Medicine, UMASS Medical School and at Oswaldo Cruz Foundation / Federal University of Minas Gerais, in Brazil.

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Evelyn Kurt-Jones, PhD

My research is focused on the role of receptor-mediated events in the pathogenesis of infectious and inflammatory processes. The discovery of the Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and their importance in the regulation of host responses to infection has focused attention on the complex interplay between pathogen genes and these host innate immune proteins in determining the outcome of infection. Our studies have demonstrated that pathogen-TLR interactions contribute to early control of infection (macrophage activation, type I interferon), recruitment of immune effector cells (chemokines) and the development of a sustained adaptive immune response (T and B cell activation and maturation). Recently we have examined the role of innate immunity in the wound healing and the recruitment of stem cells involved in the regeneration of mucosal tissues. These studies point to the key role of innate immune receptor-triggered pathways in the initiation of healing and repair of damaged tissues following microbial or chemical insults.

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Levitz Stu
Stuart Levitz, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and Molecular Genetics & Microbiology

My research is focused on the mechanisms by which fungal pathogens are innately recognized by the host, leading to an inflammatory response and the initiation of acquired immunity. Novel vaccine platforms are being constructed which incorporate fungal cell wall components, enabling targeting of antigens to dendritic cells and subsequent biased T cell responses. Subversion of host defenses by fungal virulence factors, particularly the capsule of Cryptococcus, is being investigated. 

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Rice Peter 09
Peter A. Rice, M.D.
Professor of Medicine

My laboratory investigates/defines immune factors (innate and adaptive), particularly complement dependent antibody function that influences transmission of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonococcal) infection in women. This approach provides clues to guide design of our vaccine candidates based on “functionally converting” gonococcal carbohydrate epitopes into peptide mimics. Because Neisseria interact uniquely with human complement regulators, thereby infecting only humans, we use human complement regulator transgenic mice to faithfully reproduce gonococcal infection and protective function of vaccine induced antibodies, both as they would occur in humans.

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Alan Rothman, M.D.
Professor of Medicine

My laboratory focuses on cellular immune responses and pathogenesis of emerging virus infections. We are involved in basic research to identify epitopes recognized by T cells specific for human viral pathogens, in particular dengue virus. We are also involved in clinical research in collaboration with colleagues in Asia and Latin America to examine the natural course of viral replication and immune responses in acute dengue virus infection and to identify correlates of protective immunity and disease severity.

Katherine Fitzgerald,  PhD

My research is focused on understanding how germ-line encoded pattern recognition receptors sense microbes and trigger innate immunity.  PRRs include retinoic acid-inducible gene (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs), Toll-like receptors (TLRs), nucleotide oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptors (NLRs) and the DNA sensor, absent in melanoma (AIM2). RLRs and TLRs and regulate transcription of the genes encoding proinflammatory cytokines and/or type I interferons (IFNs) in cell type-specific manners. In contrast the NLRs and AIM2 form large multiprotein complexes in cells termed ‘inflammasomes’ which control the activity of pro-caspase-1 and the maturation of pro-Interleukin IL-1 and pro-IL18 into their active, cleaved and released forms. Using biochemical, molecular biology and in vivo model approaches her group is focussed on characterizing these sensors, defining the signal transduction pathways activated downstream of these receptors and understanding the role of these receptors, signaling molecules and the transcription factors they activate in host-defense and microbial pathogenesis. 

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Sharone Green, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine

My laboratory focuses on the role of T cells in protection from and pathogenesis of flavivirus infections, including dengue viruses, Japanese encephalitis viruses, West Nile virus and yellow fever virus. In particular, I am interested in the role of pre-existing immunity to one virus infection on the clinical and immunologic outcome upon a secondary infection. My research involves both human clinical trials on dengue pathogenesis in Thailand, vaccine trials, as well as animal models of primary and secondary flavivirus infections.  

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Libraty Daniel
Daniel Libraty, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
My research focus involves delineating the cell-mediated immune responses to RNA viruses in humans that either protect against clinical disease or drive pathogenesis of severe disease. The main focus of our work is on dengue virus infections and dengue hemorrhagic fever- other projects are on hantaviruses (hemorrhagic fever renal syndrome) and influenza. We conduct most of our research with samples collected from well designed clinical studies, however we also do research in mouse models.

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Marshall Bill
Bill Marshall, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
My lab investigates vaccinia virus proteins that disable the innate immune response. Furthermore, we are deleting genes from vaccinia virus that encode these innate immune suppressive proteins in order to understand their function during infection of cells and animals. Since several HIV and tuberculosis vaccines are based on poxviruses such as vaccinia virus, we hope this will lead to safer, more immunogenic vaccines for these diseases. 

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Sanjay Ram, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Complement is a critical arm of innate immune defenses against Neisserial infections, evidenced by the clinical observation that persons deficient in complement components are at an increased risk for invasive Neisserial infections. My laboratory is interested in studying how the complement system is activated on Neisseria meningitidis and how this bacteria has evolved to escape killing by the human complement system. Meningococci can evade only human complement, but not complement from lower animals. We are interested in understanding the basis for species-specific evasion as this is relevant to develop better animal models for pathogenesis studies and also for evaluation of vaccine-elicited antibodies.

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Gibson Laura 
Laura Gibson, MD
Assistant Professor
Our laboratory group studies the immunopathogenesis of several viruses, including HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). My research focuses on characterizing cell-mediated immune responses to CMV and their role in clinical disease severity. These studies involve samples obtained from infants and solid organ transplant recipients, for whom CMV disease can be associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Our work toward a better understanding of both protective and pathologic immune responses contributes to the design of effective anti-viral vaccine strategies. 
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Greenough Thomas
Thomas Greenough, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics
I work in the Division of Pediatric Immunology. Our laboratory group's research interests center on HIV pathogenesis and vaccine development. We are developing a multi-site vaccine protocol in which young adults who are infected with HIV (and treated effectively) will be immunized with a new vaccine combination to evaluate its safety and immunogenicity. We are also examining the immunopathogenesis of Epstein Barr Virus infection (EBV; acute infectious mononucleosis). We have an ongoing clinical study of college students who become infected with EBV. Our main objective is to define the cellular mechanisms that contribute to the control of EBV replication. These studies we hope will contribute to the design of vaccines or interventions for the control of EBV infection or disease. 

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Egil Lien, PhD
Assistant Professor
My laboratory is interested in defining mechanisms for host recognition of pathogens by the innate immune system, and to study evasion mechanisms that pathogens have evolved to minimize activation of innate immunity. On the host side, our emphasis is on Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and NLRs.  The microbial focus of our work is currently the use of Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, as a model system for evading TLR4 activation by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) modification, but we also look at other types of bacterial and viral activation of innate immune signaling. In addition, we investigate effects of innate immunity on adaptive immunity and vaccine protection.
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Neal Silverman, MD
My laboratory studies the innate immune response, using Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) as a model.  Insects rely entire on an innate immune response for protection against microbial pathogens.  They lack B- and T-cells, as well as somatically recombined antigen receptors.  Instead, they utilize germline-encoded receptors to recognize microbe-specific compounds, which in turn, trigger potent, protective immune responses.  In particular, we study what bacterially derived compounds trigger these responses in Drosophila and what receptors are involved.  We are likewise very interested in the molecular mechanisms required for signaling from these receptors to the activation of NF-B family transcription factors and the induction of antimicrobial peptide genes.
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Jennifer Wang, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine
My research involves the study of Toll-like receptor (TLR)-virus interactions, particularly in dendritic cells and neutrophils, and TLR-Fc receptor interactions. I have published work with influenza virus, herpes simplex virus, coxsackie B virus, and dengue virus. An additional area of interest is with complement receptor 1 and bacterial and fungal pathogens.

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S Zhou 2
Shenghua Zhou, MD
Assistant Professor

My research interests includes the role of innate immune signaling pathways in regulating adaptive immune responses during virus infection, viral pathogenesis and the mechanism of small molecules in inhibiting virus-induced inflammation.

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Clinical Research Faculty

Daly Jennifer
Jennifer Daly, MD
Clinical Chief

My research interests include infections in transplant/immunocompromised patient, Tuberculosis, and the use of new antimicrobials. I am the Principal Investigator on the Ryan White Early Intervention Service grant that helps us care for 700 HIV patients. 

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Richard Ellison, M.D.
UMMMC Hospital Epidemiologist; Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology
I am interested in the broad field of healthcare acquired infections and communciable diseases. In recent years I have mentored a number of trainees on research projects that have included studies on: surgical site infections, MRSA epidemiology; norovirus disease, rotavirus epidemiology, HIV epidemiology, studies of hand hygiene and the impact of pertussis outbreaks on healthcare institutions.

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Cheeseman Sarah
Sarah H. Cheeseman, M.D.
Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
My past research projects have included clinical trials of antiretroviral agents and treatment of opportunistic infections, including first adminsitration of nevirapine to humans in phase I pharmacokinetic studies and co-chairing the ACTG phase I/II studies of that drug alone and in combination with zidovudine. Prior to HIV/AIDS, my focus was CMV, and I still have a lively interest in the herpesviruses and influenza. My experience also includes serving on the clinical outcomes adjudication committee for the Boston Center for Liver Transplantation CMVIG Study Group and chairing the data safety monitoring board for valganciclovir. I enjoy discussing study design and practical planning with fellows and faculty undertaking new projects.

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Sonia N. Chimienti, M.D.
Director, Fellowship Training Program
Division of Infectious Diseases
Director, Subinternship in Internal Medicine
Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine

My areas of interest lie in quality assurance and outcomes research in transplant infectious diseases, and infection control/antibiotic utilization in bone marrow transplantation and solid organ transplantation. Current projects being developed include epidemiologic inquiries into the origin and outcomes of VRE infections in solid organ and bone marrow transplant recipients, the clinical impact of use of daptomycin for fever and neutropenia, cost-effectiveness of screening for measles/mumps/rubella, as compared with universal vaccination, in pre-transplant liver recipients.

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Raul Davaro, MD.
Clinical Associate Professor

My clinical research interests include HIV and Hepatitis C co-infected patients. I have written, with former fellows, book chapters on fever in the ICU patient, infections of skin and subcutaneous tissues in drug addicts, and life threatening conditions in HIV infected patients.

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Bebinger David
David Bebinger, M.D.
Assistant Professor

Research interests in hospital acquired infections such as hospital acquired pneumonia, drug resistant pathogens such as MRSA and VRE.

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Wessolossky Mireya
Mireya Wessolossky, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine
I am interested in HIV clinical research, as well as research involving Hepatitis C (monoinfected and co-infected with HIV). I am also interested in infections in the ICU setting. I have mentored a number of trainees in clinical research projects including: CA-MRSA, Latent Tuberculosis, Aspergillosis, and hepatitis C in HIV patients.

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Zivna Iva
Iva Zivna, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine

My clinical research interests include HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C in monoinfected and coinfected population of patients. I am also interested in Tuberculosis, antibiotic control/utilization of antimicrobial therapy in hospital settings.

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