UTSA researcher Ashlesh Murthy named one of 12 emerging scholars by Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Ashlesh Murthy

Ashlesh Murthy

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(March 9, 2011)--Ashlesh Murthy, a research assistant professor in the UTSA College of Sciences Department of Biology, was named one of a dozen emerging scholars under age 40 in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. A medical doctor by training and the first graduate student to receive a Ph.D. in biology from the UTSA Cellular and Molecular Biology program, Murthy is one of a trio of San Antonio researchers working with Merck and Co. to develop and commercialize a vaccine to prevent chlamydia infection.

"I'm surprised and really quite speechless to be recognized by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as an emerging scholar," said Murthy. "I love working in the laboratory, and I enjoy finding ways to prevent disease. I feel like I am just doing my job each day, so this is a very humbling honor."

Murthy's research focuses on the pathogenesis of Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacterium that causes chlamydia. In the United States alone, nearly 2.3 million people are infected with chlamydia, which is most prevalent among those in the age 14-39 group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Murthy earned his medical degree in 1999 at Bangalore Medical College in India and began his doctoral studies two years later in the UTSA Department of Biology. As a doctoral student, Murthy began conducting research on C. trachomatis under the tutelage of Bernard Arulanandam, UTSA professor of microbiology and immunology and associate dean of research for scientific innovation in the UTSA College of Sciences. Arulanandam is also a member of the UTSA South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

In 2006, Murthy completed his doctoral studies at UTSA. Subsequently, he began an 18-month postdoctoral fellowship in Arulanandam's laboratory. In 2007, after conducting three years of chlamydia research, Murthy successfully administered a chlamydia prevention vaccine in mice in collaboration with Arulanandam and Guangming Zhong, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The researchers also demonstrated the vaccine could preserve female reproductive function, one of many consequences of chlamydia infection along with infertility. Chlamydia also can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and serious complications for newborn infants.

In 2009, Murthy, Arulanandam and Zhong signed an exclusive license and sponsored research agreement with Merck and Co. to develop a chlamydia vaccine. The Merck license is the first revenue-producing license for any technology developed at UTSA.

Each year, Diverse Issues in Higher Education profiles a dozen diverse scholars under age 40 from around the country who are making their mark through teaching, research and service. Honorees are chosen based on their research achievements, educational background, publishing record, teaching record, and the competitiveness and uniqueness of their fields and areas of study.