Roger Pechous, Ph.D.Roger Pechous, Ph.D. – Project Leader

Title:  Evaluating Key Steps in the Progression of Pneumonic Plague

The overall goal of this project seeks to identify bacterial and host factors that contribute to the progression of disease. This work will give insight into the dramatic hyper-inflammatory response that occurs during severe pneumonia and will yield information that will be valuable to understanding how the host responds to a number of respiratory pathogens.

Dr. Pechous received his doctoral degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, WI in 2008.  After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014, he joined the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) faculty  in 2016. He is currently an Assistant  Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He was the recipient in 2009 of the Medical College of Wisconsin Research Excellence Award for Outstanding Thesis Dissertation and in 2010, he was awarded the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA).

Dr. Pechous’ Mentors

Jon Blevins, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UAMS and and has expertise in bacterial pathogenesis and microbial genetics.  He is currently funded by NIH to study the vector-borne pathogenic Borrelia that cause Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) and tick-borne relapsing fever (Borrelia turicatae).

Daniel Voth, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UAMS and is an expert in intracellular bacterial pathogen interactions with human macrophages.  He has NIH funding to study Coxiella burnetii infection of the human lung and serves on a recurring NIH special emphasis study section.

Mark S. Smeltzer, Ph.D.,  is  a Professor in the UAMS Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He has also served as Director of the UAMS COBRE Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Inflammatory Response since its inception in 2012. He has been named a UAMS College of Medicine Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Scholar and a Fellow of the Arkansas Research Alliance, as was the recipient of the College of Medicine Excellence in Research Award. His research focus is on the pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus infections with a specific emphasis on infections involving bone and indwelling orthopaedic devices.

Dr. Pechous’s Staff and Students
Shalynn Mills – Research Technician
Srijon Banerjee – Post Doctoral Fellow
Samantha Huckuntod – Graduate Student

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   Tiffany Weinkopff, Ph.D. – Project Leader

Title:  Elucidating the Role of Myeloid Cells in Lymphangiogenesis during Leishmania Infection

Cutaneous leishmaniasis is caused by several species of Leishmania parasites, and leads to a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations, ranging from self-healing lesions to chronic disease with permanent disfigurement. Control of the parasite is dependent upon the activation of macrophages to kill intracellular parasites. However, even when an appropriate adaptive immune response develops and parasites are controlled, cutaneous lesions often persist suggesting the inflammatory response can drive pathology. Therefore, the goal of our work is to define the factors that limit pathology and promote lesion resolution. Using a mouse model of leishmaniasis, we have shown vascular remodeling occurs during Leishmania infection and the VEGF-A/VEGFR-2 signaling pathway leads to the formation of new lymphatic vessels which restricts tissue inflammation. Given myeloid cells are robustly recruited to the site of infection and parasites can induce macrophage VEGF-A production, we are evaluating these cells for their role in vascular remodeling during infection. Therefore, we are combining a variety of cellular and molecular techniques, including flow cytometry, microscopy and imaging to address the role of myeloid cells in mediating lesion resolution. We hope the results from our work will provide novel strategies that target the vasculature to reduce the pathology seen in patients with non-healing lesions.

Dr. Weinkopff received her doctoral degree from University of Georgia in Athens in 2010.  After completing a fellowship at the University of Lausanne  in Switzerland  in 2012 and then returning to the US, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania until 2017 when she joined the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) faculty. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.  Dr. Weinkopff received the NRSA Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship F32 Award on “The Role of Myeloid Lineage Cells during Leishmaniasis” (AI114080 01), July 2014 – April 2017.

Dr. Weinkopff’s Mentors:

Richard Morrison, Ph.D., is Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Executive Associate Dean for Research for the College of Medicine.  He served as Chair for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology from 2007-2017. He is an expert in the study of microbial immunology and the pathogenesis of chlamydia infection, and his research is funded by NIH.

Kevin D. Young, Ph.D., is the Chairperson for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and is a bacterial geneticist who specializes in the mechanisms of cell division and cell wall synthesis.  This work is supported by an R01 grant from the NIH that has run for 17 consecutive years and just been renewed for an additional four.

Jason Stumhofer, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UAMS. He is an immunologist with expertise in studying the cellular immune response against parasitic infections and holds a NIH R01 award studying the role of memory B cells in the immune response against the protozoan parasite Plasmodium, the causative agent of malaria.

Dr. Weinkopff’s Staff and Students
Hayden Roys – Research Technician
– Research Assistant
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Jon Blevins, Ph.D.Jon Blevins, Ph.D. – Project Leader

Title:  Identifying genes contributing to pathogenesis of the relapsing fever spirochete, Borrelia turicatae
This work focuses on expanding our knowledge of the pathogenesis of TBRF spirochetes and to identify regulatory effectors and virulence determinants required during mammalian infection. Regulators and virulence factors identified in this project represent potential targets against which future therapeutic interventions and/or diagnostics for TBRF could be developed.

Dr. Blevins received his doctoral degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2002. After his postdoctoral training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX, he joined the faculty at UAMS in 2009. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.  Dr. Blevins received the Charles C. Randall Lectureship for Outstanding Junior Faculty Member from the American Society for Microbiology, South Central Branch in 2012.

Dr. Blevins’ Mentors:

Mark S. Smeltzer, Ph.D.,  is a Professor in the UAMS Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. He has also served as Director of the UAMS COBRE Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Inflammatory Response since its inception in 2012. He has been named a UAMS College of Medicine Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Scholar and a Fellow of the Arkansas Research Alliance, as was the recipient of the College of Medicine Excellence in Research Award. His research focus is on the pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus infections with a specific emphasis on infections involving bone and indwelling orthopaedic devices.

Chia Lee, Ph.D., is a Professor for the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and is a bacteriologist who has the expertise in bacterial molecular biology focusing on virulence gene regulation. His laboratory has been continuously supported by NIH R01 grants since 1991. He has served as a regular member of two NIH study sections.

Daniel Voth, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and is an expert in intracellular bacterial pathogen interactions with human macrophages.  He has NIH funding to study Coxiella burnetii infection of the human lung and serves on a recurring NIH special emphasis study section. .

Dr. Blevins‘ Staff and Students:
Calvin T. Ratliff – Research Technician and Master Student
Clay Litteken – Graduate Student

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Ruud P.M. Dings, Ph.D.Ruud P.M. Dings, Ph.D. – Project Leader

Title: Dysbiosis induced impairment of immune surveillance

The objective of this project is to delineate the influence of dysbiosis on stromal immune surveillance in melanoma. Delineating and overcoming this dysbiosis induced immune surveillance impairment will enhance tumor immunity and has the potential to spur improvement in treatment efficacy and subsequently patient survival.

Dr. Dings received his doctoral degree from the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands in 2003. After completing his postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis in 2005, he joined the faculty at UAMS in 2014. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology.  In 2008, Dr. Dings received the Young Investigator Award (Michael A. O’Connor Award) from the Third Mayo Clinic Angiogenesis Symposium and in 2009, he received the Masonic Cancer Center Award, in recognition of outstanding contributor to the Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. Dr. Dings was also the Informa-Yamamoto Editoral Award Winner in 2012.

Dr. Dings Mentors:

Robert J. Griffin, PhD, is a Professor of radiation and cancer biology in the Department of Radiation Oncology with over 20 years of experience as a radiation biologist. Much of his work has been studying the interactions of normal and tumor microvasculature with tumor cells, blood flow, hypoxia and the general tumor microenvironment and using various nanomaterials for targeted delivery to the tumor vasculature and improvement of responses to radiation, thermal treatment, or chemotherapy.He has acted as President and program chair for the Society for Thermal Medicine, which has an emphasis on nanotechnology for thermal treatments in a variety of modalities.   He is active on the program committee for the ASTRO refresher course, the Radiation Research society  and he is also an associate senior editor for Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment and for the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics.

Marjan Boerma, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the College of Pharmacy Division of Radiation Health and a radiation biologist with expertise in biological effects of ionizing radiation on normal (non-tumor) tissues. She has research funding from both NIH and NASA studying cardiovascular effects of various forms of ionizing radiation. She is a permanent member of the NIH Radiation Therapeutics and Biology study section.

Martin Cannon, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology with expertise in tumor immunology and cellular therapeutics. His laboratory is currently funded by the DOD Ovarian Cancer Research Program and the NIH-supported Mayo Clinic SPORE for ovarian cancer. Dr. Cannon has served on multiple NIH review panels, including the Cancer Immunopathology and Immunotherapy study section, and he is a permanent member of the scientific advisory board for the NIH/NHLBI Production Assistance for Cell Therapy program. Dr. Cannon has also served as Chair of the DOD review panels for ovarian, breast and prostate cancer, respectively.

Dr. Dings Staff and Students:
Samir Jenkins – Postdoctoral Fellow
Mohammad Alimohammadi – Postdoctoral Fellow


Graduated Projects

J. Craig Forrest, Ph.D.

 J. Craig Forrest, Ph.D. – Project Leader

TITLE: Virus-host interactions in gammaherpesvirus (GHV) pathogenesis
Dr. Forrest successfully received his first NIH R01 with a perfect score of 10 during his CMPHIR experience.

 

Karl Boehme, Ph.D.Karl Boehme, Ph.D. – Project Leader

TITLE: Mechanisms of reovirus bloodstream dissemination
Dr. Boehme received his first NIH R01 in 2015.

 

Jason Stumhofer, Ph.D.Jason Stumhofer, Ph.D. – Project Leader

TITLE:  Regulation and function of B cells during malaria infection
Dr. Stumhofer received his first NIH R01 in 2016.

 

  Lin-Xi Li, Ph.D. – Project Lead

TITLE:  Memory CD4 T-cell responses to Chlamydia female reproductive tract infection
Dr. Li received her first NIH R01 in 2018.