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Center of Excellence in Infectious Diseases

Center of Infectious Diseases

The Center of Excellence in Infectious Diseases purpose is to expand the capacity of infectious disease research in key areas of border-population health, particularly, research in influenza, vector-borne viral illnesses (ex. West Nile), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Cross-border infectious disease transmission is a significant public health and border security concern because residents of the Paso del Norte Region, are medically underserved, economically disadvantaged, and geographically isolated. Infectious diseases can be particularly difficult to deal with in areas where low health literacy and crowding may compound the spread of disease. HIV, Dengue and West Nile Infections are some examples of diseases prevalent in the region.

The Center of 20 faculty/researchers and staff has a vaccine development program that is attempting to generate mucosa vaccines against ordinary seasonal infections but also against infectious agents that might be used as biological weapons. For instance, a current research interest is in developing influenza vaccines that don't require embryonated chick eggs for production and contain conserved B and T-cell epitopes to utilize cognate help and generate a broader, more long lasting immunity to influenza.

In addition, viruses such as West Nile and St. Louis Encephalitis can cause devastating brain infections in humans and there are no treatments or vaccines for these infections. The Center has identified several siRNA's that can act as broad-spectrum antiviral agents and found that such a treatment can provide near complete protection against a fatal West Nile disease in animal models.

Today, the Center has developed NIH-funded programs in West Nile Virus and Influenza, HIV and St. Louis Encephalitis.


Dr. Swamy received his medical degree in 1980 from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. He was a postdoctoral fellow in immunology at the New England Medical Center, in Boston, Massachusetts. From 1994 to 1997, he held the position of research assistant professor, Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, and later as an investigator with the Immune Disease Institute (formerly CBR Institute for Biomedical Research) as well as assistant professor of pediatrics, Harvard Medical School. He has been at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine as one of two co-directors of the COE in Infectious Disease since 2008.

Dr. Swamy's numerous contributions to medicine and research are reflected as author or coauthor of over 65 publications, including seven patents. His research in West Nile virus, encephalitis, as well as HIV infection and RNA interference and RNAi manipulations, have earned him NIH/NIAID research funding of over 5 million.

Dr. Swamy
Manjunath N. Swamy, M.D.,

Co-Director of the Center of Excellence in Infectious Diseases

Dr. Shankar
Premlata Shankar, M.D.,

Co-Director of the Center of Excellence in Infectious Diseases

Dr. Shankar received her medical degree from the Institute of Medical Sciences in Benares, India in 1980. Her postdoctoral fellowship in immunology was completed at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, France.

From 1991 to 1995, Dr. Shankar was a research fellow in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. A position as investigator in the Immune Disease Institute (formerly CBR Institute for Biomedical Research), as well as assistant professor of pediatrics followed at Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Dr. Shankar serves on editorial boards and as an invited reviewer for several distinguished publications. She serves as a regular member of the AIDS Discovery and Development of Therapeutics Study Section, Center for Scientific Review, NIH. She has secured millions of dollars in NIH/NIAID grants for her research in viral infections--most notably HIV and AIDS.