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
Research in the Cassat laboratory focuses on three main areas: 1) host-pathogen interactions during invasive Staphylococcus aureus infection, with a specific focus on osteomyelitis; 2) osteo-immunologic crosstalk in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases; and 3) mechanisms of bone loss during inflammatory bowel disease. 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 and the Vanderbilt Digestive Diseases Research Center. He trains graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, medical students, and others for research careers in Infectious Diseases, bacterial pathogenesis, and osteoimmunology.
Jim Chappell, MD, PhD
Dr. Chappell's scientific interests center on the etiology, prevention, and pathobiology of respiratory and enteric viral diseases. His recent work has focused on development of vaccines and antivirals against emerging coronaviruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Companion research includes the contemporary pathogen spectrum and genetic diversity, clinical features, immune responses, and vaccine effectiveness associated with acute viral respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH
Dr. Creech directs the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program (VVRP), home to the NIH-funded Vanderbilt Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (PI: Creech) and the CDC-funded Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Network (PI: Dr. Kathryn Edwards). His team focuses their work on the evaluation of new vaccines and therapeutics across several pathogens, including influenza, pertussis, SARS-CoV-2, S. aureus, and RSV. Studies often leverage next generation sequencing and immunology approaches, such as RNAseq, metabolomics, and ribosome profiling, to characterize the human response to infection and vaccination. The team is comprised of research nurses, clinical coordinators, regulatory specialists, quality assurance/quality control specialists, administrators, laboratory technicians, scientists, and physicians.
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.
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 understanding longitudinal pneumococcal colonization dynamics and the impact of these dynamics on development of acute respiratory illnesses (ARIs) in young children in the rural Peruvian Andes. Her work also focuses on the impact of interactions between respiratory viruses and colonizing pneumococci on ARI pathogenesis in these children. Dr. Howard also co-leads a prospective household-based study of children and adults in Lima, Peru designed to study the epidemiology of respiratory viral and bacterial infections, environmental drivers of antimicrobial resistance among colonizing respiratory bacteria, and transmission patterns of respiratory viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria within households and communities. Dr. Howard’s research activities are housed in the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program where she also serves as a co-investigator in several vaccine clinical trials funded by the NIH Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit. She is also the VUMC site PI for the national multicenter PRISM (Pediatric Research Immune Network on SARS-CoV-2 and MIS-C) study. Dr. Howard is also 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 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 and outpatient antibiotic stewardship interventions.
Kristen Ogden, PhD
Research in the Ogden Lab focuses on understanding mechanisms by which segmented, double stranded RNA viruses acquire genetic diversity and the impacts of this diversity on virus and host populations. The lab studies rotavirus, which is an important pediatric diarrheal pathogen, and reovirus, which has potential as an oncolytic therapeutic. Dr. Ogden is faculty appointed in Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology and a member of the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunity and Inflammation.