ATLANTA—Dr. Cynthia Nau Cornelissen, a leading researcher in the study of infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), has been named director of the Center for Translational Immunology in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University.
Recruited from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Cornelissen joins Georgia State as a professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences and a Distinguished University Professor.
The Center for Translational Immunology investigates the cellular and molecular components of the immune system to better understand complex immune-mediated diseases and to develop innovative vaccines. Cornelissen’s research is focused on bacterial pathogenesis, metal acquisition and vaccine development against STI pathogens.
Cornelissen also brings about $12.95 million in federal research funding to Georgia State.
She was recently awarded a five-year, $9.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop new vaccines for preventing gonococcal infection and disease. Gonococcal infection includes gonorrhea, the common sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterial pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are more than 820,000 new cases of gonorrhea each year in the United States. N. gonorrhoeae has developed resistance to nearly every drug used for treatment, and the CDC and the World Health Organization consider N. gonorrhoeae an urgent threat. For more information, the NIH grant number is 1 U19 AI144182-01.
Cornelissen has three years remaining for another grant totaling about $1.83 million from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to design a vaccine that could interfere with bacterial iron transport and combat infection by gonorrhea. A third grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has $1.87 million remaining. This grant is to characterize the function of zinc transporters produced by N. gonorrhoeae. Similar to iron transporters, these membrane proteins are potentially effective vaccine targets to prevent gonorrhea.
“We are very pleased that Dr. Cornelissen has chosen to come to Georgia State and the Institute for Biomedical Sciences,” said Dr. Jian-Dong Li, director of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. “The research funding that Dr. Cornelissen has achieved is truly remarkable, and her expertise in infectious diseases, specifically sexually transmitted infections including gonococcal infection, will complement the institute’s existing strengths in immunology, infectious diseases and therapeutics. Her research will play a role in advancing patient care for these common but difficult to treat infections.”
Cornelissen received her Ph.D. degree in microbiology under the guidance of Dr. Jordan Konisky at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She completed postdoctoral training with Dr. Fred Sparling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has served on the Committee on Graduate and Postdoctoral Education for the American Society for Microbiology for over a decade. In addition, she is the first author of a soon-to-be published textbook, “Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Microbiology, 4thEdition.”
To learn more about Cornelissen’s new research grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), read the NIH press release: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/nih-awards-will-advance-development-vaccines-sexually-transmitted-infections.
Cynthia Nau Cornelissen
Director, Center for Translational Immunology
Professor, Institute for Biomedical Sciences
Distinguished University Professor
Research interests: Characterizing virulence factors that enable the sexually transmitted pathogen N. gonorrhoeae to cause infection