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IDSA Education and Research Foundation Young Investigator Award in Infectious Diseases

Current Award Winner
 Katherine Dobbs

Katherine Dobbs, MD, is this year's recipient of the IDSA Education and Research Foundation Young Investigator Award in Infectious Diseases. Dr. Dobbs received her MD in 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. As a medical student, she spent two years conducting tuberculosis research in Uganda and developed an interest in tropical infectious diseases research. She completed residency in the Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital and Boston Medical Center. As a Fellow in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and Case Western Reserve University, she studied monocyte-mediated immune responses to malaria infection under the mentorship of Drs. Arlene Dent and James Kazura. She recently started as junior faculty at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and the CWRU School of Medicine.

Dr. Dobbs' research has focused on the innate immune response to malaria infection in children from western Kenya. Monocytes are innate immune cells that are needed for host protection against malaria but also contribute to disease pathogenesis. She has found that monocytes undergo important phenotypic and functional changes during acute malaria infection, including decreased opsonic phagocytic function and decreased constitutive cytokine production. Monocytes during acute malaria had significantly altered transcriptional profiles compared to those obtained after treatment, suggesting that monocytes undergo an overall functional reprogramming after malaria exposure.

Dr. Dobbs has proposed to further investigate the mechanisms underlying functional changes in monocytes after malaria exposure. She hypothesizes that opsonic phagocytic function of monocytes during acute malaria is impaired due to overexpression of an inhibitory Fcγ Receptor (FcγR) for IgG, FcγRIIB, which counteracts the stimulatory function of other activating FcγRs. She will investigate the functional impact of FcγRIIB through knockdown and overexpression studies in primary human monocytes. In addition, she will test the hypothesis that malaria exposure leads to an overall functional reprogramming of monocytes via epigenetic modifications. Methylation is an important epigenetic mechanism that cells use to control gene expression. She will analyze DNA methylation patterns across the genome of monocytes from Kenyan children during acute malaria and after treatment. The ultimate goal of her proposed research is to identify epigenetic control mechanisms of monocyte function that can be used as targets of adjunctive therapy for severe malaria.

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