Infection biology pioneer to give 2015 Bertram Marx lecture at UAB

Jorge Galán, latest in a long list of prestigious Marx lecturers, will speak on the molecular pathogenesis of typhoid fever.

jorge galan webJorge Galán, DVM, Ph.D., who was lauded as “one of the pioneers of molecular and cell biology of infections” when he won the €100,000 (euros) Robert Koch Prize in 2011, will give the 27th Bertram M. Marx lecture, hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department Microbiology, on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

The title of the lecture is “Typhoid fever: new insights into an old disease.” Galán is the Lucille P. Markey Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis and chair of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale University School of Medicine. His work focuses on the pathogenesis of Salmonella enterica and Campylobacter jejuni, two pathogens that account for the majority of cases of infectious diarrhea, causing an estimated 2 million deaths annually.

At the Koch award ceremony in 2011, Professor Jürgen Heesemann, director of the Max von Pettenkofer-Institut of Hygiene and Medicinal Microbiology in Munich, Germany, said, “For over 25 years, Jorge Galán has been producing groundbreaking results that help us understand the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenicity of the enteric pathogen salmonella.”

Particularly noteworthy were:

  • Analysis of the structure and function of the new protein-injection system, called the type III secretion system (TTSS or T3SS). The protein injection, TTSS organelles on the surface of a microbe look remarkably like tiny syringes, and they are able to pierce the membrane of a target host cell and inject proteins that induce the host cell to take up the pathogen.
  • Analysis of those injected effector proteins, which reprogram the host cell to promote salmonella growth. “There are few host proteins with signaling transduction or cytoskeleton functions that cannot be imitated by salmonella effector proteins,” Heesemann said.

needle complexHeesemann said Galán’s work “is of universal importance for infection biology” because most Gram-negative pathogens of plants and animals have protein-injection systems that are homologous to TTSS. Before Galán’s discovery, “pathogenic bacteria had been considered passive microbes, under the control of host cells, and it was believed that they could only damage the host cell via toxins.”

Galán has also pioneered using the TTSS to deliver antigens for vaccine development, discovered the unique “typhoid toxin” that causes typhoid fever and elucidated the mechanism of the cytolethal distending toxin, produced by many important bacterial pathogens.

Galán was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. He received his doctorates from Cornell University in 1986 and the National University of La Plata, Argentina, in 1980.

Details for the 2015 Bertram Marx lecture:

     What:   Jorge Galán, “Typhoid fever: new insights into an old disease.”
     When: Noon, Tuesday, Feb. 24.
     Where: Volker Hall Lecture Room B, 1670 University Boulevard.

Reception to follow in the Lister Hill Library Edge of Chaos, 1700 University Boulevard.