Medical Microbiology and Immunology

MMI 2022 News and Awards

Kelly Morgan, M.S.B.S.
Kelly Morgan

December 13, 2022

Kelly Morgan successfully defended her thesis titled: "Assessing Factor H-Fc Fusion Proteins for Controlling Burkholderia pseudomallei Infection".
Advisor: R. Mark Wooten, Ph.D.
Future Plans:  Kelly plans to stay in Toledo, OH to gain working clinical experience in healthcare as she prepares for 

physician assistant or medical school.


MMI Researchers present at international conference

Drs. Jason Huntley and R. Mark Wooten, both professors in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, recently attended the 16th International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and other Tick-Borne Diseases (ICLB) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Dr. Huntley gave an invited oral presentation on his lab’s research to understand how Francisella tularensis infects and replicates in different tick vectors and Dr. Wooten presented a poster on his lab’s research to develop a new vaccine against Lyme disease.
ICLB was attended by more than 200 physicians and scientists from around the world who study and/or treat patients with tick-borne diseases. The four-day conference featured sessions on tick-host-pathogen interactions, epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases including Lyme disease, tularemia, babesiosis, and tick-borne encephalitis

 Dr. Huntley speaks in Amsterdam
Dr. Jaston Huntley presents at the 16th International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and other Tick-Borne Diseases: "Francisella tularensis Exhibits Distinct Infection and Replication Kinetics in Amblyomma and Dermacentor Ticks." 

New graduate students welcomed in annual Biomedical Science Lab Coat Ceremony
New Biomedical Graduate Students 2022
We officially welcomed our new graduate students at the recent Biomedical Science Graduate Program’s annual Lab Coat Ceremony. We presented them with new lab coats courtesy of The University of Toledo Alumni Association, which paid for the white coats given out.

Beginning their journey, students seek Master’s, Ph.D. and dual degrees in research tracks that include medical microbiology and immunology, cancer biology, molecular medicine and neurosciences and neurological disorders.

Please join us in wishing a warm Rocket welcome to the new students!

The Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) welcomed their department to Fall 2022 with a Welcome Lunch on August 26

MMI Pizza Lunch MMI Pizza Lunch

The department was able to introduce their new incoming first-year students to the department with a meet'n'greet where the current students, researchers, and faculty shared their primary research projects.  It was a great opportunity for collaboration.

Dr. Jason Huntley, professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, talks to NBC24 about his research on biologically active bacteria that break down microcystin toxins
Huntley NBC Video
Click to View the Video

Kelli DeVanna, M.S.B.S.
Kelli DeVanna

August 3, 2022

Kelli DeVanna successfully defended her thesis titled: "Exploring Potential inducers of the Psp Response in Vibrio cholerae".
Advisor: Jyl S. Matson, Ph.D.
Future Plans: Kelli plans to find a job in Microbiology and apply to Ph.D. programs in the future.


Congratulations to Iluja Gautam for her article titled, "UT researchers consider platelets in the fight against diseases" published in the Toledo Blade on August 1, 2022

 Iluja Toledo Blade

Click Here to Read the Article

UToledo Trauma Team Headed to Poland to Train Ukrainian Physicians

The ongoing war in Ukraine and the resulting stream of casualties flowing into Ukrainian hospitals has forced nearly every physician in the country to be at the ready for taking on trauma cases — something well outside the expertise of most doctors.

“Everyone in some way has been redeployed because of this war. You have pediatricians with no experience treating trauma cases, for example, suddenly responsible for pediatric trauma,” said Dr. Kristopher Brickman, director of the Global Health Program in The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “They’re on the front lines, doing everything they can to get their country through this.” 

Brickman, also a professor of emergency medicine and the college’s senior associate dean for innovation and simulation, is spearheading a UToledo-led effort to build those critically needed skills by taking training directly to those doctors.

On July 16, he and a small group of other UToledo physicians and nurses will travel to Poland to lead a pair of two-day Advance Trauma Life Support classes at the Medical University of Warsaw.

Dr. Stanislaw Stepkowski, a Warsaw native and professor of medical microbiology and immunology at UToledo, and Dr. Ivan Kaspruk, an emergency medicine resident at UToledo who is originally from Ukraine, will join the team to assist in translation.

Click Here to read the UToledo article

Congratulations, Dr. Jason Huntley!
Dr. Huntley

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Jason Huntley, who recently joined the senior leadership team of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences in the position of Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Development.

Dr. Huntley received his Bachelor of Science in Biology and Master of Science in Microbiology degrees, as well as his Ph.D. in Veterinary Pathology with specialization in Cellular and Molecular Pathology from Iowa State University.  He completed a fellowship in Microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.
Dr. Huntley has been a faculty member in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences since 2010. He began as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure in 2016. He was recently recommended for promotion to Professor with Tenure. He also serves as the Director of the Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) and Animal Biosafety Level 3 (ABSL3) Facility and Co-Director of the Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) Graduate Track.
Dr. Huntley has served on numerous University committees and currently serves as co-chair of the University Strategic Planning Committee, and as a member of the Institutional Biosafety Committee, Water Task Force to Counteract Microcystin Toxins in Lake Erie, Institutional Review Entity (IRE) for Dual Use Research Concern (DURC), Faculty Senate, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and Faculty Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs. He also serves on the Medical Student Research Committee, Biomedical Graduate Executive Committee for Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, Curriculum Evaluation Committee, MD/PhD Committee, COMLS Council and COMLS Council Executive Committee, COMLS Executive Committee, Executive Curriculum Committee, Clinical Curriculum Reform Steering Committee, as well as having served on several search committees for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. He received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in New Investigator Research in 2016 and the President’s Award for Excellence in Grantsmanship in 2017 from The University of Toledo. He also represented the University as a Fellow for the Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program.

MMI Faculty member invited to give a lecture at Introductory Immunology Course
Dr. Ferreira

                                                    Congratulations to Dr. Viviana Ferreira, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, who has been invited by The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) to give a lecture on the complement system as faculty in the Introductory Immunology Course in July at The UCLA Conference Center in California.
Founded in 1913, AAI is a society of professionally trained scientists throughout the world dedicated to advancing the knowledge of immunology and its related disciplines and is the most prestigious association of immunologists in the world.
The program is a five-day comprehensive, two-part course, taught by world-renowned immunologists that provides a comprehensive overview of the basics of immunology.  Click here to learn more.

MMI Researcher awarded $2.16M from NIH to study how interferons protect against virus infection
Dr. C

Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology (MMI), recently received a notice of award from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This award will fund a five-year R01 grant ($2.16M) titled “Novel antiviral mechanisms of the interferon system.”

His lab is studying how our immune system protects against virus infections. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Chattopadhyay’s research uncovered new facets of antiviral defense mechanisms. In the current award, Dr. Chattopadhyay’s group will study how the interferons, commonly used to treat viral diseases, utilize new cellular mechanisms to block virus replication and disease.

Dr. Chattopadhyay will be supported by his co-investigators, Dr. Ritu Chakravarti, assistant professor (Physiology and Pharmacology), and Dr. Travis Taylor, associate professor (MMI). Dr. Chattopadhyay would like to acknowledge the support from his collaborators, including the leaders in the field, Drs. Tomoaki Ogino (MMI), Malathi Krishnamurthy (UToledo), Xiche Hu (UToledo), and Jacob Yount (OSU).

The research in Dr. Chattopadhyay’s lab has been supported by the extramural funds through R21 (NIAAA, PI, 2018-2021), RO1 (NIAAA, PI, sub-award, 2019-2023), RO1 (NIAID, PI, 2021-2026), and RO1 (NIAID, 2022-2027) grants from NIH and state-funding from the Ohio Department of Health (2020-2022).

MMI Researchers attend meeting of the American Association of Immunologists in Portland

Dr. Ferreira and Smrithi Sugumaran Menon
ICS/AAI Symposium; Ph.D. candidate Smrithi S. Menon and Dr. Viviana Ferreira

Dr. Viviana Ferreira, associate professor, and Smrithi Sugumaran Menon, Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Ferreira's lab, both from the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology recently participated in the prestigious national immunology meeting: 

  • Dr. Ferreira, current Treasurer of the International Complement Society, organized and co-chaired the 8th International Complement Society (ICS) Guest Symposium at the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) meeting on May 12. The session was titled: "Complement: The Road Less Traveled" and distinguished speakers covered topics on complement and (a) arthritis evolution, (b) intracellular complement, (c) brain injury, and (d) fungal diseases. Dr. Ferreira has organized the last four ICS Guest Symposia at AAI and she and the President of the ICS have been invited to write a review on the session to be published in The Journal of Immunology.

    Smrithi presented a poster titled “Mechanisms by which Factor H protects Trypanosoma cruzi from the alternative pathway of complement” In the session “Immunity to Microbial and Parasitic Infections II.”

Dr. Jason Huntley, associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology, discusses water quality and protecting public health at the 12th International Conference on Toxic Cyanobacteria, which took place at UToledo.
Jason Huntley
Click Here to Read the Article

Congratulations to the 2022 Robert T. Tidrick Golden Apple Award Winner for Teaching Excellence in Basic Sciences,

Dr. Ferreira
Viviana Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D.

The Robert T. Tidrick Golden Apple Awards for teaching excellence are named in honor of Dr. Tidrick, a surgeon and outstanding educator on the faculty of the former Medical College of Ohio from 1969 until his death in June 1983, at the age of 73. Faculty, both basic scientists and clinicians, are selected for the honor each year by members of the graduating class of medical students.  This is Dr. Ferreira's second year winning this award.

Click Here to Learn More

Irum Syed, Ph.D.
Irum Syed

April 28, 2022

Irum Syed successfully defended her dissertation titled: "Identification and Characterization of a Burkholderia pseudomallei Factor H-Binding Protein".
Advisor: R. Mark Wooten, Ph.D.
Future Plans:  Irum will continue her work on Burkholderia pseudomallei in the Wooten lab.

Sara Moore, Ph.D.
Sara Moore

April 19, 2022

Sara Moore successfully defended her dissertation titled: "Implications for Properdin, a Complement Regulatory Protein, in Rheumatoid Arthritis".
Advisor: Viviana Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Future Plans: Sara will return to medical school to complete her M.D. degree by May 2024.



MMI Faculty Recognized for Tenure & Promotion
Congratulations to members of our faculty who were recently approved for tenure and/or promotion by The University of Toledo Board of Trustees at its April meeting!
The MMI faculty member who received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor

Dr. Chattopadhyay
Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay

The MMI faculty member who received promotion to Professor is

Dr. Huntley
Dr. Jason Huntley


Click Here for More Information

University of Toledo 2022 Graduate Research Awardees announced

Congratulations to the two MMI awardees: Iluja Gautam and Sukanya Chakravarty!

Iluja Gautam — doctoral dissertation, medical microbiology and immunology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.
Mentor: Dr. Randall Worth.
Award amount: $1,970. Project: "Role of Platelets in Host Defense Against Respiratory Paramyxovrius infection"

Sukanya Chakravarty — doctoral dissertation, medical microbiology and immunology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.
Mentor: Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay.
Award amount: $2,185. Project: "Understanding the Novel Anti-Inflammatory Role of IRF3 in Respiratory Virus Infections and Pathogenesis"

Click Here to Learn More

The Graduate Research Awardees were recently recognized at the April 2022 Graduate Council Meeting:

Post Doc publishes research in journal Frontiers in Immunology
Dulat Bekbolsynov, Ph.D., UToledo alumni and PostDoc in the Stepkowski Lab in the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, recently published an article, "Improving Access to HLA-Matched Kidney Transplants for African American Patients" with fellow researchers in high impact journal Frontiers in Immunology.

"Kidney transplants fail more often in Black than in non-Black (White, non-Black Hispanic, and Asian) recipients. We used the estimated physicochemical immunogenicity for polymorphic amino acids of donor/recipient HLAs to select weakly immunogenic kidney transplants for Black vs. White or non-Black patients.  Conclusion showed that race-adjusted HMS (EMS, AMS)-based allocation increased the number of weakly immunogenic donors for Black patients, while still providing excellent options for non-Black recipients."
Click Here to Read the Article

Dr. Bekbolsynov and the Stepkowski lab were also coresearchers on an article published in Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, titled, "Predicting Kidney Transplant Survival using Multiple Feature Representations for HLAs".
Click Here to Read the Article

2022 Graduate Research Forum Winners and Finalists Announced

Graduate Research Forum

The Council of Biomedical Graduate Students (CBGS) and the College of Pharmacy presented the Graduate Research Forum on March 16 and March 17, 2022. Congratulations to all of the finalists and winners:

Finalist & Winners Poster Session
1st place: Kelly Morgan (Wooten lab; MMI)
2nd place: Joshua Breidenbach (Kennedy/Haller lab; MMI/Medicine)
3rd place: Ryan Harris (Taylor lab; MMI)
Farzaneh Naghavi (Giovannucci lab; Neurosciences)
Nicole Bell (Giovannucci lab; Neurosciences)

Winners Oral Session
1st place: Veani Roshale Fernando (Furuta lab; Cancer Biology)
2nd place: Sayani Bhattacharjee (Nadiminti lab; Cancer Biology)
3rd place: Shumin Fan (Chattopadhyay lab; MMI)

Click Here for More Information & the Abstract Booklet

Student publishes research in high impact journal Immuno
Karan Article
Karan Chawla, medical student and research assistant in the Chattopadhyay Lab in the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology, recently published an article, "Autophagy in Virus Infection: A Race between Host Immune Response and Viral Antagonism," with fellow researchers in high impact journal Immuno.

"Virus-infected cells trigger a robust innate immune response and facilitate virus replication," the authors wrote in the abstract. "Here, we review the role of autophagy in virus infection, focusing on both pro-viral and anti-viral host responses using a select group of viruses."
Other authors on the article include: Dr. Gayatri Subramanian, Tia Rahman, Shumin Fan, Sukanya Chakravarty, Shreyas Gujja, Hayley Demchak, Dr. Ritu Chakravarti and Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay.

Click Here to Read the Article

MMI Cholera Researcher Makes Surprising Discovery Close to Home


While not the same strains that cause disease, Dr. Jyl Matson's surprising discovery of Vibrio cholerae in the Maumee River and Lake Erie raises intriguing questions.

Click Here to Read the UToledo article

MMI Researcher awarded $800,000 grant from National Science Foundation
Dr. Matson

Congratulations to Dr. Jyl Matson, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, who was recently awarded an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.  

The title of her proposal is "Stress response mechanisms in Vibrio." Previous studies in Dr. Matson’s lab identified a new stress response pathway in Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of epidemic cholera. This pathway is also broadly conserved in other bacterial species.  The overall goal of this project is to characterize this pathway in V. cholerae, with an emphasis on understanding how the pathway helps this pathogen and other bacteria survive in the presence of stressors encountered in the environment and human host. In addition, other stress response mechanisms in environmental Vibrio species will be studied as a part of an outreach program involving local high schools.

Dr. Robert Blumenthal, professor, also in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, is a co-investigator on this proposal.

 The University of Toledo Medical Research Society recently approved funding for two researchers' projects within the College of Medicine and Life Sciences


The Medical Research Society was created in 2014 by a group of community donors to support biomedical research at Toledo. Seed funding from the society has helped provide early data to leverage major grants from nonprofits and federal funding agencies. NIH Funding is up 14% over the past five years and it has been estimated that every $1 of NIH funding generates about $2.21 in local economic growth.

Dr. Viviana P. Ferreira, associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, was approved for the project titled: "Understanding how the immune system contributes to inflammatory diseases."  She received a $50,000 grant from the society.

The seed funding from the Medical Research Society will help to study novel aspects of regulation of the complement system. The research topic centers on understanding how an essential positive regulator of the complement system, properdin (P), is involved in the pathogenesis of complement-mediated inflammatory diseases. Properdin's job is to make the immune system's inflammatory processes efficient; however, sometimes properdin's activity is so effective that it can lead to excessive inflammation. Inflammation is a process that is necessary but can be dangerous when excessive.

"We aim to know if properdin does its' job differently during disease, as compared to within a healthy body," Dr. Ferreira shared with us. "This novel question will be addressed using an innovative assay, designed in my laboratory, that measures P function in biological samples, in proportion to the types of P oligomers present in the sample, and determine associations between P concentration and function, complement markers, and clinical parameters in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis."

"I am honored and very grateful that the Medical Research Society has entrusted me with this donation to advance research in how complement contributes to inflammation," she said. "It is an invaluable contribution to my laboratory and graduate students and will help to advance the project to a level where NIH funding can be secured."


Congratulations to the 2021 MMI Graduate Student Research Scholar Awardees (MMIRSA)
Sukanya ChakravartyJosh BreidenbachShumin FanApurva Lad
          Sukanya Chakravarty, Joshua Breidenbach, Shumin Fan, and Apurva Lad

The Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology has announced this year's awardees for
the MMI Graduate Student Research Scholar Award (MMIRSA):

Sukanya Chakravarty (PhD student in the lab of Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay)
Joshua Breidenbach (PhD student in the lab of Drs. Kennedy and Haller)
Shumin Fan (MD/PhD student in the lab of Dr. Saurabh Chattopadhyay)
Apurva Lad (Graduated PhD student in the lab of Drs. Kennedy and Haller)

Congratulations to the awardees and their PIs on this achievement!

The MMIRSA award serves to encourage and increase MMI graduate student publications and pre-doctoral fellowship submissions.   More information on the award can be found at this link.

 Awardee announced for MMI Earl H. Freimer Award for Outstanding MD-PhD Student in Medical Microbiology & Immunology

Sara and Dr. Ferreira
Sara Moore (MD-PhD candidate) and Viviana Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D.

The Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology has announced the 2022 recipient of the Earl H. Freimer, MD, PhD, Award for Outstanding MD-PhD Student in Medical Microbiology and Immunology: Sara Moore!

The Earl H. Freimer award is issued from an endowed fund established in the name of Earl H. Freimer, founding chair of the MMI Department, and founding Division Director of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine. The award recognizes Dr. Freimer's commitment to the intersection of medicine with research in immunology and infectious agents.

This year's awardee, Sara Moore, is in the lab of Viviana Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D. Sara is (to date) first author on a Frontiers in Immunology paper titled "Hijacking Factor H for Complement Immune Evasion", and middle author on a paper in American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine titled "Increased Alternative Complement Pathway Function and Improved Survival During Critical Illness". She has also received several awards including a 2020 Joint Biology Consortium Arthritis microgrant, a 2020 UT Health Science Campus Retirees Scholarship Endowment Scholarship, a 2021 UT Graduate Student Research Award, and an oral presentation award from the International Complement Society at the 2021 International Complement Workshop.

The award comes with a monetary prize, from a fund generously endowed by Dr. Freimer's family after his death. More information on the award can be found at this link.

Congratulations to Sara and her dissertation advisor!

MMI faculty member selected as Treasurer and Officer on the ICS Board
Dr. Ferreira
Dr. Viviana Ferreira
has just completed her term as a Councilor on the International Complement Society (ICS) Board and was now elected to serve as Treasurer and Officer on the ICS Board. The incoming President for the ICS, Dr. Claudia Kemper, NIH, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, indicated in her Welcome Address "I am delighted that my tenure coincides with the term of Viviana Ferreira as newly elected treasurer. Viviana and I have worked together on several occasions for the ICS mission, and she has been instrumental in increasing the visibility of complement research among the broader immunology community via her engagement with the American Association of Immunologists."

Click Here to See More

Researchers receive recognitions at the 28th International Complement Workshop
Complement Workshop
Left side: Sara Moore, M.D./Ph.D. candidate
Center top: Dr. Trent Woodruff, University of Queensland, Australia.
Center bottom: Dr. Viviana Ferreira
Right top: Dr. Claudia Vilhena, moderator
Right bottom: Dr. Anna Blom, Lund University, Sweden


Members of Dr. Viviana Ferreira's laboratory in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology attended the 28th International Complement Workshop held virtually this past December.
Sara Moore, M.D./Ph.D. candidate, was selected to give an oral presentation entitled "Implications for properdin, a complement regulatory protein, in disease" for which she received one of the competitive oral presentation awards.
Dr. Ferreira, D.V.M., Ph.D., Associate Professor, was invited to give a lecture entitled "Regulation of the Complement System" as part of the meeting's teaching day, alongside other international complement experts.

The Blade: Not Just Your Liver: Algal Toxins Might Impact Your Ability to Reproduce, Too
Jason Huntley

David Kennedy and Jason Huntley, associate professors in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, comment on a new study connecting exposure to microcystin in harmful algal blooms to reproductive problems.

 Click Here to Read the Article

MMI faculty member’s research appears on cover of Nucleic Acids Research journal

Dr. Bob Blumenthal, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Director of the Program in Bioinformatics, has the cover article in a recent issue of the high-impact journal Nucleic Acids Research (5y impact = 11.8).
The article reports that an enzyme (MettL3-14) long known to add methyl groups to RNA in human cells also methylates DNA, but only if the DNA is damaged, and this may play a role in DNA repair.

The article is titled "Human MettL3-MettL14 RNA adenine methyltransferase complex is active on double-stranded DNA containing lesions."

It is his fifth cover article for that journal, all of them with his long-time collaborator, x-ray crystallographer Dr. Xiaodong Cheng (currently at M.D. Anderson in Houston).

Click Here to Read the Article


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