Campus News Science & Technology

College of Veterinary Medicine hires GRA Distinguished Investigator

UGA College of Veterinary Medicine hires top immunobiologist as GRA Distinguished Investigator

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine has hired a distinguished immunobiologist as part of its infectious diseases research team expansion. Dr. Donald Harn comes to UGA as a Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator. His hiring is part of a GRA initiative to recruit research scientists who are well-regarded in next-generation vaccines and therapeutics research. He is formerly a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“Dr. Harn is a distinguished immunobiologist and one of only a handful of individuals worldwide working on host-helminth relationships at the molecular and field levels,” said Dr. Fred Quinn, head of the infectious diseases department.

Helminths are worm-like parasites that live and feed off the inside of living hosts. They receive nourishment and protection while disrupting their hosts’ nutrient absorption, causing weakness and disease. They can live inside humans as well as other animals.

“Dr. Harn has been highly productive in this multi-faceted and innovative research program on several aspects of the immunology of schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that affects more than 200 million people worldwide, and more recently autoimmune diseases and HIV infections,” said Quinn. “Besides basic bench research, he has extensive vaccine field studies ongoing in water buffalo herds in China. Over the years, he has taught classes and trained numerous graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in this under-studied area of immuno-helminthology. His presence in Athens adds significantly to the world-class parasitology research programs (basic and applied) here at UGA and the College of Veterinary Medicine.”

Harn received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School before joining the faculty in 1985. He became a full professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1994 where he has most recently served in the immunology and infectious diseases department. Harn is a member of the American Association of Immunologists and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and has served on the editorial board of International Parasitology since 1999.

“Due to the increased demand for infectious disease studies in animals and humans, the College of Veterinary Medicine is undergoing an expansion of the infectious diseases team focused on developing vaccines for a variety of animal and human diseases,” said Dean Sheila W. Allen. “Dr. Harn’s research on schistosamiasis and HIV fits perfectly with our current studies while enhancing the expertise of our faculty and the breadth of our graduate programs. We are honored to have Dr. Harn join the College of Veterinary Medicine to contribute to our tradition of excellence in teaching, research, and service.”

In 2007, the Georgia Research Alliance launched an initiative to position Georgia as a world leader in discovering a new class of vaccines and therapeutics. GRA’s Next-Generation Vaccines and Therapeutics Initiative leverages the talent and infrastructure strengths of Georgia’s major research universities to promote new investment in discovery. In working to build broad and deep support for the Next-Generation Vaccines and Therapeutics Initiative, the GRA created the GRA Distinguished Investigators program.

The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, providing services to animal owners and veterinarians, and conducting investigations to improve the health of animals as well as people. The college benefits pets and their owners, food-producing animals, and wildlife by offering the highest quality hospital and diagnostic laboratory services. The college is equipped with technologically advanced facilities dedicated to safeguarding public health by studying emerging infectious diseases that affect both animal and human health. The college enrolls 102 students each fall out of more than 500 who apply. It has more than 145 faculty members. The college is currently in a $100 million fund-raising campaign for a new Teaching Hospital.