Campus News Science & Technology

UGA’s newest distinguished investigator to expand infectious diseases research efforts

UGA's newest distinguished investigator to expand infectious diseases research efforts in College of Veterinary Medicine

Athens, Ga. – Biao He, who has worked extensively on the interactions between paramyxoviruses and host proteins, vaccine development and cancer therapies, has joined the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine as the latest Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator.

He comes to UGA from the department of veterinary and biomedical sciences at Penn State University. He joins faculty in Veterinary Medicine as part of a GRA initiative to recruit top scientists who conduct research in next-generation vaccines and therapeutics. He studies the interactions between paramyxoviruses, which include many well-known viruses such as parainfluenza and the viruses that cause measles and mumps-as well as emerging animal and human pathogens. Parainfluenza viruses can cause upper respiratory and lower respiratory infections in adults and children. The viruses are responsible for about half of croup cases and 10 to 15 percent of bronchitis cases, including pneumonia.

“Dr. He’s research on parainfluenza viruses, RNA synthesis and vaccine development complements our existing investigations while expanding the expertise of our faculty and graduate programs,” said Dean Sheila Allen. “He will add considerably to our infectious diseases initiative and our ability to focus on vaccine development for a variety of animal and human diseases.”

A native of China, He earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology at State University of New York Health Science Center in Brooklyn. He worked as a research associate for five years in molecular biology at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He moved to Penn State University in 2001, where he was an assistant and later an associate professor of virology, and where he served on the graduate faculty of the Huck Institutes for the Life Sciences and in the department of veterinary and biomedical sciences. He has conducted research and taught courses in genetics, molecular medicine, viral pathogenesis, virology and immunology.

He has published a number of peer-reviewed research articles on the functions of parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5) proteins, and the role of phosphorylation of phosphoprotein in viral RNA synthesis. He already has been working collaboratively with UGA’s Mark Tompkins and colleagues in the College of Veterinary Medicine, to develop new vaccines against influenza virus. While at Penn State, He generated a reverse genetics system for mumps virus. Mumps re-emerged in 2006 in the U.S. in the largest outbreak in recent history with more than 6,000 cases in Iowa and adjacent states.

“Dr. He’s expertise in molecular virology will be a great asset to our infectious diseases research and teaching program,” said Fred Quinn, head of the department of infectious diseases. “Our BSL3 facility will enable him to work on many pathogens, and the critical mass of faculty here working on vaccine development promises new and exciting possibilities for advancement in this area.”

The Georgia Research Alliance launched an initiative in 2007 to position Georgia as a world leader in vaccine and therapeutics research and development. The GRA Next-Generation Vaccines and Therapeutics Initiative leverages the talent and infrastructure of Georgia’s major research universities to promote new investment in discovery, and the Distinguished Investigators Program builds broad support for this initiative.

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 involved in a $100 million campaign to raise funds for a new teaching hospital.