Research has been a critical mission of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division since its establishment in 1974. The division’s investigative strengths include: viral and bacterial microbial pathogenesis; emerging infectious diseases; antiviral and monoclonal antibody development and testing; human immunology; vaccine design, surveillance and clinical trials; antimicrobial surveillance and stewardship; implementation science; and global health. The diversity of research interests is impressive in scope, spanning studies of single molecules to diverse populations across the world. Division faculty direct and/or contribute to multiple research programs, including the Elizabeth B. Lamb Center for Pediatric Research, the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC), Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program (VVRP), the Institute for Global Health (VIGH), the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation (VI4) and others. Along with discovery and application, training of new investigators is a key focus of our research programs. Our faculty mentor PhD graduate students, postdoctoral scientists, clinical fellows and other faculty for basic, translational, and clinical research careers.
Please see below to learn more about our investigators and their research efforts.
Ritu Banerjee, MD, PhD
Dr. Banerjee conducts clinical research related to surveillance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and strategies to optimize appropriate antibiotic use. She is the principal investigator on several NIH-and CDC-funded studies, implementing and evaluating rapid diagnostics and other antibiotic stewardship interventions. She is the Director of Antibiotic Stewardship for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Jim Cassat, MD, PhD
Dr. Cassat’s lab studies host-pathogen interactions during osteomyelitis with a focus on Staph Aureus and seeks to understand how infection and inflammation perturb musculoskeletal cell biology. Dr. Cassat serves as an Associate Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation (VI4) and is a core faculty member of the Vanderbilt Center for Bone Biology. He trains graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students and others for research careers in Infectious Diseases and bacterial pathogenesis.
Jim Chappell, MD, PhD
Dr. Chappell has broad expertise in viral biology, and pathogenesis. He has investigated structural and functional several structural and functional principles governing virus cell-targeting and replication programs using model systems of virus-cell interactions. His current research focuses on the determinants of cell entry and neutralization of the emerging coronaviruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.
C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH
Dr. Creech directs the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program (VVRP), a research unit that is supported by the NIH-VTEU program (Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit). His team currently leads studies to determine the optimal duration of therapy for children with pneumonia; to define the immune response to influenza vaccination using a systems vaccinology approach; to define the immune response to S. aureus infections in children and adults; and to compare whole-cell pertussis and acellular pertussis vaccines in children, using ribosome profiling as a transcriptomics tool. The VVRP is a center for investigators engaged in clinical research and training.
James E. Crowe, Jr, MD
Dr. Crowe is Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC). His laboratory studies the human immune response to infection for a wide variety of major human pathogens, including many emerging infections. His group has isolated and tested monoclonal antibodies against critical human pathogens including influenza, Ebola, dengue, and others, many of which have potential as therapeutic and prophylactic interventions. Dr. Crowe is active in training of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research faculty.
Mark R. Denison, MD
The Denison Lab studies the coronaviruses (CoVs), specifically Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). They work to define the mechanisms of virus evolution and adaptation. Ongoing projects include studies of a unique virus-encoded RNA proofreading enzyme in coronavirus evolution and disease, studies of potential therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, and testing of highly active antiviral nucleoside analogs against all CoVs. Dr. Denison has trained graduate students, postdocs, medical students, undergraduates and faculty in virology research. Dr. Denison directs a T32 (training grant) for ID Fellows and postdoctoral scientists and is a training director for the Pediatrics K12 physician-scientist training grant.
Dan Dulek, MD
Dr. Dulek's research is focused on multicenter, collaborative studies of the epidemiology, treatment, and diagnosis of infections in transplant patients. In addition, he has a specific interest in immunogenetic prediction and stratification of infection risk in immunocompromised patients.
Kathryn M. Edwards, MD
Dr. Edwards is an internationally-recognized expert in vaccinology and member of the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. Edwards is an Investigator of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network. She has been pivotal in studies of vaccines for Haemophilus influenzae type b, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Bordetella Pertussis, and other vaccines containing multiple antigens. Dr. Edwards is currently working with the CDC to address adverse events after immunization. Questions include: are the vaccines related to the adverse events, what are the underlying reasons for the adverse events, and what should be done for subsequent immunizations? Dr. Edwards has won multiple awards for mentoring and training of fellows and faculty in clinical research.
Natalia Jimenez-Truque, PhD
Dr. Jimenez-Truque focuses on vaccine trials as the project manager for the Vanderbilt Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (VTEU), one of several NIH-NIAID VTEU sites funded to test new and improved vaccines and therapies against infectious diseases.
Natasha Halasa, MD, MPH
Dr. Halasa’s research program focuses on determining the burden of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses in young children and specialized populations and finding ways to reduce their burden through vaccine and drugs. Dr. Halasa also has been involved in vaccine trials enrolling children, including young infants and specialized populations such as children with cancer. She has studied vaccines for influenza, pertussis, pneumococcus, and RSV. She is PI of the Vanderbilt site of the New Vaccine Surveillance Network (NVSN), established to predict the impact of potential new vaccines in pediatric and adult patients. Dr. Halasa is active in training of Peds ID Fellows, students and postdoctoral scientists.
Leigh Howard, MD, MPH
Dr. Howard’s research focuses on pneumococcal colonization dynamics in young children, and the impact of these dynamics, as well as the impact of viral and bacterial vaccines, on the development of pneumonia and respiratory illnesses in children living in rural and resource-limited settings. Dr. Howard also co-leads a Vanderbilt Trans-Institutional Program, (RESPIRA-Peru) which focuses on expanding the understanding of the environmental drivers of antimicrobial resistance. Dr. Howard is active in training infectious Disease Fellows.
Sophie Katz, MD, MPH
Dr. Katz is the Associate Director of the Pediatric Antimicrobial Stewardship program and leads the outpatient antimicrobial stewardship program for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Her research targets biomarkers of infection and development and implementation of methods for increasing appropriate antibiotic use in the outpatient setting. She is committed to training ID Fellows in methods of quantitative analysis of antibiotic use.
Troy Moon, MD, MPH
Dr. Moon is Pediatrics ID faculty and is affiliated with the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) He has research and training projects in global health including research capacity building, microbiology capacity building, research ethics capacity, HIV/AIDS, viral hemorrhagic fevers, and infectious causes of under-five mortality. Dr. Moon directs the Pediatric Global Health Academic Community for Residents and Fellows with interest in global health and to gain skills in design and implementation of global health care and research. Dr. Moon actively mentors fellows and international scholars at Vanderbilt and at multiple international sites.
Kristen Ogden, PhD
Research in the Ogden Lab focuses on understanding mechanisms by which segmented, double stranded RNA viruses, including rotavirus and reovirus, acquire genetic diversity and the impacts of this diversity on virus and host populations. Dr. Ogden is faculty appointed in Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology and a member of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.
Andrea J. Pruijssers, PhD
Dr. Pruijssers has expertise in multiple areas of virology. Her research focuses on the identification and development of antivirals for emerging coronavirus (CoV) infections, including SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and other potential zoonotic CoVs. The goal of her research is to develop broad-spectrum antivirals to fight the current MERS-CoV outbreak and future zoonotic CoV.
Isaac Thomsen, MD, MSCI
Dr. Thomsen’s research focuses on the host response to staphylococcal infections in children and adults, identifying novel targets to combat S. aureus / MRSA, and evaluating diagnostic and management strategies for pediatric bone and joint infections. He also serves as Director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Clinical Fellowship at Vanderbilt.