Infectious Diseases Research

The Division of Infectious Diseases conducts creative basic biomedical laboratory, patient-oriented and population-based research to develop effective approaches for reducing the global burden of infectious and infection-related diseases. Our research includes work on bacterial and viral pathogenesis, treatment of HIV and its complications, HIV vaccines, healthcare-associated infections, tuberculosis, viral oncology, COVID-19 and infections in immunocompromised hosts.

Our division occupies 40,000 square feet of research space across the main hospital, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University building at 181 Longwood Avenue in Boston and our location at 65 Landsdowne Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We received over $25 million in total direct research awards in 2020.

Areas of Interest

The research interests of the division span areas such as these:

Recent Accomplishments

  • Dr. Matthew Waldor, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, is developing approaches to define the genes, proteins and metabolites that mediate interactions between enteric bacterial pathogens and their hosts. His lab applies genome-scale analyses to identify pathogen and host factors that impact pathogenesis. The lab created a rapidly acting, live-attenuated cholera vaccine that is entering clinical trials.
  • Drs. Kenneth Kaye, Benjamin Gewurz and Bo Zhao share common interests and are a leading group studying the molecular pathogenesis of the major human cancer viruses: Epstein-Barr virus and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus.
  • The division has played a central role in the Brigham and Mass General Brigham response to COVID-19. Our hospital epidemiologists, Drs. Michael Klompas, Meghan Baker and Chanu Rhee, served as members of Brigham Incident Command. Between March and June 2020, numerous ID attendings and senior fellows provided 24-hour coverage of the biothreats pager, which was organized by Drs. Jen Johnson, Mary Montgomery, Daniel Solomon, Brian Chan, Ann Woolley and others, and provided real-time assistance in assessing COVID risks posed by specific inpatients and outpatients.
  • Drs. Lindsey Baden and Stephen Walsh are leaders in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)-funded COVID-19 Vaccine and Prevention Network (CoVPN), which comprises several vaccine trials. Dr. Baden is protocol co-chair for CoVPN 3001 (NIH-Moderna Phase 3 efficacy trial), while Dr. Walsh is the protocol co-chair for CoVPN 3005 (NIH-Sanofi Phase 3 trial). Our group will continue to pursue vaccine development for COVID-19 and other pathogens.
  • Dr. Jonathan Li was the co-principal investigator of the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness COVID-19 Observational Cohort study, which has collected samples from over 500 participants and has already led to publications in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Cell and the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Li's laboratory has also validated a novel SARS-CoV-2 viral load assay, which has been used to assess the impact of respiratory tract and plasma viral load in hospitalized adults, pregnant women and children. This work has resulted in manuscripts accepted for publication in Nature Communications, JAMA Network Open, NEJM and the Journal of Pediatrics.
  • Faculty members worked to initiate the TestBoston program, led by Dr. Woolley and Dr. Lisa Cosimi as well as Dr. Deborah Hung, a core faculty member and co-director of the Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program. TestBoston put in place a testing surveillance program to detect when clusters of COVID-19 are on the rise again throughout the fall and winter in Greater Boston. TestBoston is a large-scale research study to detect active COVID-19 cases and evidence of previous infection — and changes in the rates of both — in a representative group of 10,000 Brigham patients reflecting the demographics of Greater Boston. Patients will be tested monthly for six months.
  • Dr. Baden and Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes are co-principal investigators of the Boston HIV Clinical Trials Unit (CTU). The CTU is funded by the NIAID to promote research on novel approaches to the prevention of, treatment of and vaccine development for HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. Dr. Kenneth Mayer, medical research director and co-chair of the Fenway Institute, is a co-principal investigator. The Boston-based CTU is one of 35 U.S. and international institutions that will provide the infrastructure and scientific and administrative expertise to conduct clinical trials within the HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks.

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