March 10, 2016
Leading Virologist Chris Basler Named Founding Director of Center for Microbial Pathogenesis
By Brian Mullen, Georgia State University
Dr. Chris Basler, a world-renowned research leader in the study of emerging viruses, including the Ebola virus, has been named founding director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis, Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBMS), at Georgia State University.
Recruited from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, Basler joins Georgia State as a Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar in Microbial Pathogenesis, becoming the eighth eminent scholar at the university.
His research seeks to understand how the Ebola virus alters and evades immune responses and how this influences the severe disease caused by the deadly virus. In addition, he is devising novel antiviral approaches targeting these viral immune evasion functions. These studies will not only explain how these viruses block beneficial immune responses and instead trigger damaging inflammation that often produces fatal outcomes, but also lead to the development of novel therapeutics.
“Georgia State is excited to welcome Dr. Basler as the founding director of the university’s new Center for Microbial Pathogenesis,” said James Weyhenmeyer, vice president for research and economic development at Georgia State. “He will lead the university’s effort to translate laboratory research discoveries to clinical applications and treat life-threatening RNA virus infections, addressing significant health issues of concern to Georgia.”
The new Center for Microbial Pathogenesis was established to better understand the molecular basis of life-threatening infectious diseases, such as Ebola virus disease and tuberculosis so novel therapeutic strategies can be further developed. Basler will hire additional faculty members under Georgia State’s Second Century Initiative to serve as part of the center.
Basler is the program director on two National Institutes of Health (NIH) center grants, including a Center of Excellence for Translational Research for Biodefense and Emerging Pathogens. He is also principal investigator on an additional NIH-funded research grant and on two multi-institutional Department of Defense grants. The annual total cost associated with these grants is $7 million, totaling about $20 million through 2019.
“Given today’s very difficult funding climate, this level of funding is truly remarkable,” said Jian-Dong Li, professor and director of IBMS at Georgia State and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. “Dr. Basler’s key expertise in emerging virus infections will complement the existing strengths of IBMS in inflammation and infection leading to new opportunities for synergistic collaboration not only with researchers within Georgia State but also with other universities within the State of Georgia.”
For 25 years, the GRA has partnered with Georgia’s research universities to recruit world-class scientific talent to Georgia. The GRA also invests in state-of-art laboratory equipment and fosters collaboration among the universities, business and government communities.
“We are very pleased Dr. Basler has chosen to come to Georgia,” said Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of the GRA. “Georgia has become a center for immunology research and he will make a strong addition to our team of experts that are on working on new vaccines and therapeutics to combat viruses posing a great threat to our world today.”
Basler has received numerous prestigious and nationally recognized honors and awards. He received the Ellison Foundation New Scholar Award in Global Infectious Disease. He was co-author on The Lancet’s Paper of the Year 2005 – Characterization of the reconstructed 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic virus. He was also a co-recipient of the James H. Nakano Citation for outstanding scientific paper, awarded by the National Center for Infectious Diseases of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention co-recipient. In 2014, he was elected to fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology.
He received his Ph.D. degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and performed his postdoctoral training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.