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Curtiss named ‘Bioscience Researcher of the Year’

July 05, 2007

Roy Curtiss of ASU's Biodesign Institute, was named “Bioscience Researcher of the Year” at the third annual Excellence in Bioscience Awards Dinner, held recently and sponsored by the Arizona BioIndustry Association.

Curtiss is a leader in exploring the genetic basis by which bacteria colonize, invade and induce disease. Dubbed in the press as a “70-year-old biology superstar,” Curtiss also has considerable expertise in avian, plant and phage genetics. He is director of the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, where he oversees a 130-member research team working on more than a dozen projects. He is also a professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Curtiss’ primary focus is on alleviating suffering and death in the developing world.

One of his major projects is development of a vaccine against bacterial pneumonia. Bacterial pneumonia kills more children around the world each year than any other infectious disease. That drives Curtiss and his global team to perfect a safe, yet potent vaccine for this lethal pathogen that can be tolerated even by newborn babies – and administered as a one-dose solution in a simple eyedropper.

In 2005, Curtiss received a $14.8 million grant from the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative, funded primarily by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Preliminary studies have been successful, and the team hopes to move the vaccine technology forward to begin human clinical trials within the next year. The single-dose, oral vaccine for bacterial pneumonia promises to outperform the existing injectable vaccine in every way — safety, affordability, ease of distribution and effectiveness. In addition, the technology has the potential to be used for a range of existing and new vaccines.

Before coming to ASU in 2004, Curtiss was the George William and Irene Keochig Freiberg professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., where he chaired the Department of Biology for 10 years. His body of published work includes more than 250 reviewed articles. He earned a bachelor’s of science degree from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.