Two faculty members in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology have made significant contributions in the areas of the Dengue Virus and Antifungal Drug Discoveries.
Dr. Radhakrishnan Padmanabhan, Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University and Dr. Subhash Vasudevan of Duke-National University of Singapore are editors of the book, “Dengue: Methods and Protocols”. The book offers detailed descriptions of techniques compiled from the leading laboratories working on dengue research. Each year, Dengue virus (DENV1-4) infects millions of people in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Currently, there is no preventive vaccine or antiviral drugs for treatment.
Dr. Richard Calderone, Professor of Microbiology and the Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, was the first author on the journal article, “Antifungal drug discovery: the process and outcomes”, which appeared in the Future Microbiology Journal. The article highlights the impending crisis of invasive fungal infections. Currently, mortality due to invasive fungal infections globally equals that caused by drug-resistant tuberculosis and exceeds deaths due to malaria. In spite of this, no new antifungal therapeutic interventions have occurred during the past 2 decades. This review summarizes the the public health issues of these diseases, advocacy and policy to promote new discovery, and basic research currently underway, including in the Calderone lab, to develop new antifungal drugs.
Richard Calderone, PhD, is Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Director of the MS Degree Program in Biomedical Science Policy & Advocacy at The Georgetown University Medical Center. He is an internationally recognized leader in research on the human pathogen Candida albicans, the pathogenesis of invasive candidiasis, and the identification of antifungal drug targets. The research of his lab team is focused primarily on understanding gene functions related to pathogenesis, including signal transduction proteins related to cell wall synthesis, and mitochondrial energetics. Other lab research focuses upon the identification of fungal-specific antifungal drug targets. Two proteins that fulfil this requirement are mitochondrial electron transport complex I (ETC1) subunits. Their fungal gene-specificity is associated with fungal-specific functions, such as cell wall mannan polysaccharide synthesis, virulence, and immunological activity.
Dengue viruses (types 1-4), members of Flaviviridae, are transmitted by mosquito vectors, Aedes agypti and Aedes albopictus. They are recognized as the causative agents of diseases such as dengue fever, a simple self-limiting disease, to more severe forms, dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome, affecting ~50-100 million people annually worldwide with thousands of fatalities. Over 40% of the world population is at risk for dengue viral infections and currently there is no effective vaccine or antiviral drug available. Moreover, infections caused by another member of the mosquito-borne Flaviviridae, West Nile virus, previously unknown in the U.S., have caused several thousand infections in birds and humans since the 1999 epidemic in New York City. My laboratory has been involved in (1) understanding the role of cis-acting RNA elements and conserved motifs in viral nonstructural (NS) proteins, involved in translation and replication of the viral genome, and (2) identification of small molecule inhibitors of the viral protease, RNA helicase, and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase.