Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology


The BUSM Section of Infectious Diseases has a long and proud tradition of research in the areas of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology.  We have a strong cadre of nationally and internationally recognized investigators with expertise in these areas that can train our fellows in many aspects of pathogenesis, protective immunity and inflammation.  In addition to working with faculty from within the Section of Infectious Diseases, research opportunities with faculty from clinical or graduate departments affiliated with the Section of Infectious Diseases, and from the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL) are also available.

Program Goal:

  • To prepare trainees to be competitive for independent research careers in the broad area of pathogenesis and infectious diseases. 


The ID Fellowship Track in Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology will provide trainees with a solid academic background in infectious disease research with an emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches to understanding how bacterial pathogens interact with the innate immune system, and how this relates to the development of disease, as well as the induction or evasion of a protective adaptive immune response.

Fellows in this track will participate in rigorous training at the laboratory bench; opportunities to complement the laboratory-based research project with clinical/translational studies may also be available.  In addition to conducting a research project, fellows will be expected to attend regularly scheduled seminars and journal clubs co-sponsored by the basic science departments within the greater BU medical campus; and they will have the opportunity to participate in relevant graduate-level courses at the Boston University School of Medicine and Graduate Medical Sciences (BU GMS), Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and the Boston University Charles River Campus (BU CRC).

Examples of ongoing research projects that might be of interest to fellows include:

  • A collaborative project with Obstetrics/Gynecology to examine the role of infection and inflammation in preterm birth using patients that deliver at Boston Medical Center (Dr. Ingalls);
  • Evaluation and development of vaccine adjuvants and new vaccines to Neisseria gonorrhoeae utilizing humanized transgenic mouse models (Dr. Wetzler).
  • Development of new vaccines to Neisseria gonorrhoeae utilizing humanized transgenic mouse models (Dr. Wetzler).

Other projects are available within our areas of interest and are described below.


Microbial Pathogenesis

Many of our faculty are interested in the mechanisms of pathogenesis of a variety of organisms including Neisseria meningitidis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Chlamydia pneumoniae, Listeria monocytogenes, and others.  There is special emphasis on the interaction of those pathogens with the immune system, such as how those pathogens may induce protective immunity or evade the immune system.  In addition, the Dept. of Microbiology and the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL) (BL3 facilities are now open and in use and BL4 level laboratories will soon be approved) have many faculty interested in viral pathogenesis and immunity.  Fellows could have the opportunity to work with these researchers as listed below.  Viral pathogens include Ebola, Marburg, Zika, RSV, Lassa, Measles, etc.  In addition, in collaboration with investigators at the Charles River Campus some of these invigorators are involved in developing rapid diagnostics for these and other pathogens that take advantage of the expertise of the investigators.

Innate Immunity and Inflammation

The Section of Infectious Diseases has an extremely strong interest in innate immunity and the interaction of microbial pathogens and their byproducts with innate immune pattern recognition receptors.  For example, we study how receptors, such as Toll-like receptors, may affect the induction of inflammation, and lead to inflammatory sequelae (i.e., atherosclerosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, oral bone loss).  We also focus on how the innate immune system is involved in protection from those pathogens and how they may affect the immune response to these pathogens. Moreover, Dr. Wetzler is the program director of a NIH training grant on inflammation that training grant eligible fellows could also be a part of this program.

Immune Protection and Vaccine Development

In our work regarding immune protection against various pathogens, a number of our ID faculty and are interested in the development of vaccines to protect against human pathogens.  Moreover, much work is being performed to try to optimize vaccine efficacy via the use of immune adjuvants and various methods of immunizations, based on our knowledge of innate immune responses.


Primary Faculty

Robin Ingalls, MD

Lee Wetzler, MD


Affiliated Faculty

Igor Kramnik, MD, PhD (NEIDL/Pulmonary)

Stephen Pelton, MD (Pediatric ID)

Vishakha Sabharwal, MBBS (Pediatric ID)

Deborah Anderson, PhD (Obstetrics/Gynecology)

Jay Mizgerd, ScD (Pulmonary)

Lee Quinton (Pulmonary)

John Connor, PhD (NEIDL/Microbiology)

Elke Muhlberger, PhD (NEIDL/Microbiology)

Paul Duprex, PhD (NEIDL/Microbiology)

Rachel Fearns, PhD (Microbiology)