Gerald Byrne Named Full-time Director of Regional Biocontainment Lab

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David M. Stern, MD, executive dean of the College of Medicine and interim vice chancellor of Research at the UTHSC, has appointed Gerald Byrne, PhD, the full-time director of the UTHSC Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL).

David M. Stern, MD, executive dean of the College of Medicine and interim vice chancellor of Research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has appointed Gerald Byrne, PhD, the full-time director of the UTHSC Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL). To devote all of his efforts to this role, Dr. Byrne has stepped down as chair of the UTHSC Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry (MIB), a position he held for almost 10 years. Nationally recognized for his expertise in chlamydial and infectious agents, Dr. Byrne will continue in his role as a professor in MIB.

Dr. Stern named Michael Whitt, PhD, professor in MIB, as the interim chair for the department. Dr. Whitt is an internationally recognized expert on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) entry, replication and assembly. He also holds a patent on the use of recombinant VSV as a therapeutic vector. VSV is a virus that belongs to the same family as the well-known rabies virus. It can infect insects, cattle, horses and pigs as well as humans, who exhibit flu-like symptoms when infected. Also a common laboratory virus, VSV is used to study the properties of a specific family of viruses, as well as to study viral evolution.

“Gerry has made many significant contributions to his department and to the university. He is an outstanding scientist and advocate for the RBL, and we are excited he has chosen to focus his considerable efforts in the development of the RBL research portfolio,” Dr. Stern observed. “We are grateful to Mike for his willingness to assume the leadership role in Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry. His abilities to build strong peer relationships and manage projects will serve him well in his new role,” Dr. Stern added.

As the author of more than 110 original, peer-review articles and more than 15 reviews and book chapters, Dr. Byrne serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Infection and Immunity, and has a long history of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Study Section service. He has been continually funded by multiple extramural agencies throughout his career; including an ongoing NIH R01 grant with a 25 year history and Department of Defense funding for the past 10 years. Further, Dr Byrne was a lead researcher in the successful bid to obtain the UTHSC NIH UC6 grant, which brought in more than $25 million to support the building and equipping of the RBL.

Funded by the NIH and American Cancer Society, Dr. Whitt served as a member of the NIH Virology Study Section. He is on the editorial board for Virology and Journal of Virology, and has received numerous teaching awards at UTHSC.