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UA’s Felicia Goodrum Named to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Inaugural Class of Innovation Fund Investigators

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Felicia Goodrum, PhD, has been named to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ inaugural class of Innovation Fund investigators, she joins researchers throughout the country selected to build interdisciplinary teams to solve some of today’s most challenging questions in biomedical research.

Nationally renown for her research on the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), one of nine human herpesviruses, Dr. Goodrum is an associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, Department of Immunobiology. She also is a member of the UA BIO5 Institute.

More than half of adults by age 40 have been infected with HCMV and most people infected show no signs or symptoms. Reactivation of HCMV from dormancy poses life-threatening disease risks in immunocompromised individuals, including transplant, AIDS and cancer patients. HCMV infection also is the leading cause of infectious disease-related birth defects, affecting 1 in 150 live births in the United States.

She has partnered with Benjamin R. tenOever, PhD, professor of microbiology with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, to advance understanding of how viruses lie dormant to cause persistent infections.

Drs. Goodrum and tenOever are Pew alumni, who now join five pairs of interdisciplinary researchers selected from throughout the country to advance research on a wide range of topics, including neuroscience, bioengineering, immunology and genetics.

The Pew Innovation Fund provides each research team, who are part of the Pew biomedical sciences alumni of scholars, fellows and advisers, $200,000 in “seed funding” to pursue collaborative, innovative and cutting-edge research, supported by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace by Pieces Fund. The fund was created to build interdisciplinary research projects that combine unique areas of expertise to solve some of today’s most challenging questions in biomedical research and further drive innovation in the biomedical sciences.

With the Pew Innovation Fund support, Drs. Goodrum and tenOever will seek to advance new ways of controlling virus replication and the development of an effective HCMV vaccine.

Dr. Goodrum’s research focuses on the complex interactions between viruses and their host. Her lab seeks to understand how the herpesvirus can remain in the host to cause lifelong latent infection. As a Pew scholar in 2008, she explored the role of cellular mechanisms and pathways that are important to viral latency. These include the innate immune response to infection and processes that regulate viral gene expression.

Also a 2008 Pew scholar, Dr. tenOever’s research focuses on the manipulation of viruses as a means to control their biology. His lab builds virus-based tools that address fundamental questions concerning virus/host interactions to enhance the understanding of viral disease and generate new therapeutics.

“Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for HCMV. With the Pew Innovation Fund, we will combine our efforts to advance what we know about HCMV by developing a system to study HCMV in cell types important to viral persistence,” Dr. Goodrum said. “The key to eradicating HCMV lies in understanding latency. Our work will provide critical insights into how HCMV assimilates into and impacts human biology.”

For more than 30 years, Pew has supported more than 900 early-career researchers in the United States and Latin America with expertise in a wide range of topics, including neuroscience, bioengineering, immunology and genetics. Pew’s efforts are aimed to encourage novel interdisciplinary collaborations where perspectives from one field inform breakthroughs in another.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn)

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