Harvard microbiologist John Collier speaks April 15 at UTSA on diphtheria toxin

diphtheria

Dipheria

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(April 14, 2011)--The UTSA South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases in the UTSA College of Sciences will present "An Ode to the Study of Diphtheria," a technical lecture featuring R. John Collier, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School. Free and open to the public, the lecture sponsored by the Ewing Halsell Foundation, will be 9-10 a.m., Friday, April 15 in the Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering Multifunction Room (2.102) on the UTSA Main Campus.

The bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria causes diphtheria, a disease now rare in the United States because of mandatory vaccination, but once was extremely common. The bacterium is highly contagious, and the disease has a relatively high fatality rate because the toxin produced by the bacteria can cause systemic and lethal effects.

Collier has been studying diphtheria toxin for nearly 50 years, and his research has been seminal in the understanding of how bacterial toxins enter host cells and cause lethal effects. The seminar will provide a retrospective analysis of his influential studies of diphtheria toxin action.

Collier is one of the most preeminent researchers in bacterial pathogenesis. His four-decade career began when he earned his Ph.D. in biology at Harvard University in 1964. Upon completing post-doctoral studies in biology at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) Molecular Biology Institute, Collier joined the faculty at UCLA, where he served in numerous capacities from 1966 to 1984.

In 1984, Collier joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School. Five years later, he was named the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. In 1991, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

More recently, he served as a consultant to various biomedical companies such as Cetus Corporation (1982-1984), Virus Research Institute (1994-1998), AVANT Immunotherapeutics (1998-2000) and CombinatoRx Inc. (2005-2008). In 2001, he co-founded PharmAthene Inc., an Anapolis-based biodefense company.