Microbiology academy elects two VU scientists
By Melissa Marino and David F. Salisbury
March 19, 2010
James Crowe Jr., M.D., professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology & Immunology, and Ellen Fanning, Ph.D., the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences, have been elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM), an honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology, the world's oldest and largest life science organization.
This year's fellows join a group of around 2,700 distinguished scientists elected to the Academy over the last 50 years.
Fellows are chosen for this honor by their peers and are elected on the basis of their scientific excellence, originality and leadership, high ethical standards and scholarly and creative achievement.
Crowe was recognized for his contributions to patient-oriented research through his fundamental work in vaccine development, molecular immunology of human responses, and virology of important human pathogens.
His work has made significant contributions to the understanding of the development of childhood defenses against viral diseases.
Crowe's work in this area helped define the role of the recently discovered human metapneumovirus (hMPV) in pediatric lower respiratory tract disease - and identified hMPV as the second most common cause of lower respiratory tract disease in children.
Crowe's group is also studying the mechanisms underlying the response of adults to vaccines related to biodefense, such as vaccinia virus, avian influenza and other emerging infections. Notably, his isolation of human antibodies to the 1918 influenza virus from pandemic survivors - reported in a 2008 Nature paper - represents the longest duration of human immunity ever documented.
Fanning was recognized for the leading role she played in turning a special virus - simian virus 40 (SV40) - into a powerful model system for studying how mammalian cells divide and reproduce.
This model exploits the fact that SV40 relies heavily on the replication machinery of its host cell and uses a single viral protein - the T antigen - to co-opt the cellular proteins that the virus needs to copy itself.
This has allowed Fanning and her colleagues to identify host proteins essential for cell replication and to determine how they function and fit into the complex network of molecular pathways that orchestrate the normal process of cell division in mammals.
Fanning's broader research interests have led her to identify DNA sequences that control the replication of mammalian chromosomes and to characterize the structure and function of a variety of proteins that process human DNA.