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IDSA Education and Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Award in Infectious Diseases


Current Award Winner

 Charles Kyriakos Vorkas 

Charles Kyriakos Vorkas, MD, a Fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM), is this year’s recipient of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Education and Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Research Award.  The award provides support for Dr. Vorkas’ research investigating innate immunity during Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection.

 

Dr. Vorkas received his B.A. in Philosophy and Biology from Columbia College in 2002 and subsequently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching high school biology, health, and English in Moatize, Mozambique (2002-2005).  He then matriculated to Weill Cornell Medical College, where he was awarded a NIH-Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholarship to study HIV/TB diagnostics and epidemiology with UNC Project, Lilongwe, Malawi under the mentorship of Mina Hosseinipour, MD, PhD.  He received his MD in 2011 and was awarded the Anthony Seth Warner, MD Memorial Prize for the study of Infectious Diseases and the Sondra Lee Shaw Memorial Prize for the study of Behavioral Sciences.  He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014, where he received the Chairman’s Award.  He is currently a research fellow in the laboratory of Michael S. Glickman, MD, a Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, Member of the Sloan Kettering Institute, and expert in Mycobacterial biology and Tuberculosis (TB) immunity.

 

Dr. Vorkas is pursuing a career as a physician-scientist in the field of TB immunology.  His research is focused on the immune correlates of resistance to Mtb infection.  TB continues to be a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality.  Despite significant decline in TB incidence due in large part to public health infrastructure and capacity-building in resource-limited settings, large knowledge gaps remain in our understanding of the host immune mechanisms that determine clearance of primary Mtb infection or control of latent infection.  Dr. Vorkas has developed ex vivo functional assays to assess innate T cell responses of three cohorts actively being recruited at the GHESKIO centers, Port-au-Prince Haiti in collaboration with his co-mentor Daniel Fitzgerald, MD, as part of an NIH-funded Tri-institutional TB Research Unit: (1) active TB cases, (2) healthy household contacts of these TB cases, and (3) healthy unexposed community volunteers.  Dr. Vorkas is particularly interested in the role of mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells during Mtb exposure.  MAIT cells are MR1-restricted lymphocytes that recognize bacterially-derived Vitamin B metabolites and data suggest that they respond early during Mtb infection.   He has developed an antigen-specific activation assay to assess MAIT cell subset heterogeneity in the Haitian cohorts in order to identify potential biomarkers and mechanisms of innate immune resistance to infection.  He is also interested in using novel, synthetic MR1 ligands in priming experiments, which could serve as a preventative strategy against Mtb infection.

 

 

Dr. Vorkas seeks to complement his background in clinical research, epidemiology, and global health with a laboratory-based research program in immunology so that he can practice high impact translational science.  His findings may have direct applications in the development of TB vaccines and immunotherapy.

 


 Previous Award Winners

2016 Patrick Cudahy, MD

 

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