MRSA Research Center

The University of Chicago Medicine

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The Team

MRSA Research Center Principal Investigator

Dr. Robert Daum

Robert S. Daum, MD, CM

Professor of Pediatrics
Professor, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division
Professor, Committee on Microbiology
Professor, Committee on Molecular Medicine

Dr. Robert Daum was elected to the 2009-2010 Best Doctors in America.

Dr. Daum is a nationally and internationally known expert in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and currently heads the University of Chicago Medical Center MRSA Research Center.

In 1998, Dr. Daum published a paper documenting that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) had become a major problem in the community. Previously MRSA had been known to be a problem only in health care facilities. A decade later, this concept of a community-based epicenter of MRSA infections has changed the research focus necessary to understand this new problem. Indeed, epidemic MRSA disease in the community has now been declared a public health imperative.

Previously, Dr. Daum had played a vital role in understanding the immune response to Haemophilus Influenzae type b vaccines and was one of the key investigators involved in understanding the immune response of children to these vaccines.

Dr. Daum is also the Director of the Pediatric Immunization Program (PIP), a "reminder-recall on foot" program in Chicago aimed at developing a novel strategy for delivering routine immunizations to children.

Dr. Daum graduated from McGill University, Montreal, completed residency and research training at Montreal Children's, and completed his Infectious Diseases Fellowship at Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School. In 1978, he was appointed to the faculty at Tulane University. In 1988, he moved to the University of Chicago where he has remained.

MRSA Research Center Staff

Susan Boyle-Vavra, PhD

Susan Boyle-Vavra, PhD

Research Associate (Professor), Director MRSA Research Center

Dr. Boyle-Vavra studies the molecular basis of antibiotic resistance mechanisms in Staphylococcus aureus. Her research identifies unique genetic traits in vancomycin-resistant S. aureus and the newly emerging community-associated methicillin-resistant strains (called MRSA). Using molecular tools that the MRSA Research Center Lab developed, Dr. Boyle-Vavra's team is finding new reservoirs of infection as well as new emerging strains of bacteria. Another area of study is focused on understanding a regulatory system in S. aureus that senses the presence of methicillin and vancomycin that turns on genes that help Staph adapt to these drugs. An exciting discovery has been that this system is essential for methicillin resistance.  By understanding how this system senses and responds to antibiotics, Dr. Boyle-Vavra's team may identify a novel target for combination antimicrobial therapy that could restore the use of methicillin (and related drugs like oxacillin). Dr. Boyle-Vavra teaches the course, "Plagues: Past and Present" at the University of Chicago. This course covers lectures on the biology of selected infectious diseases that have caused serious worldwide pandemics throughout history, including The Plague, smallpox, tuberculosis, influenza, and AIDS. Dr. Boyle-Vavra received her Ph.D. in Microbiology/Immunology from Northwestern University.

Michael Z. David, MS, MD, PhD
Photograph by Brian Warling

Michael Z. David, MS, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine

Dr. David was an undergraduate at Amherst College, where he studied Russian Language and Literature. Then, Dr. David studied medicine at Yale University and Russian history at the University of Chicago with a dissertation on the history of tuberculosis control in Russia, 1900-1941. He completed the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars' Program at the University of Chicago and studied biostatistics and epidemiology at Chicago after his Yale residency in internal medicine.  Since 2004 he has studied the epidemiology of MRSA in the U.S., including studies in jails, rural Alaska, at academic medical centers, and in cystic fibrosis patients, and he has examined the many definitions used for community-associated (CA-) MRSA infections.  Currently, Dr. David is working on a study aimed at limiting the transmission of MRSA in the Dallas County Jail and on a project aimed at modeling MRSA transmission in the city of Chicago.  He is interested in all aspects of the molecular and clinical epidemiology of MRSA, the roots of fitness of USA300 (the most common CA-MRSA strain in the U.S.), the history of infectious diseases, and Russian medical history.

Neha Kumar, MD

Neha Kumar, MD

Clinical Research Specialist

Dr. Kumar's efforts include a vast array of projects with her primary focus on the NIH funded MRSA Treatment Study whose purpose is to assess the efficacy of various treatment regimens for skin and soft tissue infections caused by community-associated Staphylococcus aureus.  Dr. Kumar is responsible for recruiting clinical study subjects from the adult and pediatric Emergency departments as well as their follow up care throughout their participation in the study.  Along with the Treatment study, there are many ancillary studies that require collection of body colonization swabs, blood sample collection, and administration of surveys. Dr. Kumar is also responsible for any intermediate analysis required for the Treatment Study. 
Her recent efforts also include assisting with the analysis for the Household Contacts Study, organizing a study that aims to verify the efficacy and dosing of Daptomycin in children for complicated skin infections, as well as helping to organize the second edition of a Pediatric Exam Review Book.

Fan Zhao

Brian Cheng, BSc

Doctoral student

Brian is a doctoral student in the Department of Microbiology. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa, with a major in Biomedical Sciences. He prior research experience at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute focused on the genetic regulation in cardiovascular diseases. Currently, Brian’s research focuses on the development of a multivalent vaccine against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus soft tissue and skin infection. He is also interested in understanding the mechanism and the role of adaptive immunity to mount an efficient protection.

Shaohui Yin, PhD

Shaohui Yin, PhD

Research Associate

Dr. Yin is passionate about understanding the molecular-level mechanisms that explain S. aureus' resistance to antibiotics, including vancomycin. He is interested in explaining how bacteria developed resistance, with a particular emphasis on examining the genes that contribute to this resistance. Dr. Yin has been working with Drs. Boyle-Vavra and Daum for eight years. Dr. Yin received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Kentucky.

Affiliated Faculty

Maria-Luisa Alegre, MD, PhD

Maria-Luisa Alegre, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Medicine, Section of Rheumatology

Dr. Alegre obtained her MD from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and specialized in Internal Medicine and Intensive Care.  She received her PhD in Immunology from The University of Chicago and has been a faculty member in the Department of Medicine since 1999.  Her research laboratory focuses on immune responses in animal models of transplantation and autoimmunity.  She recently started a multidisciplinary collaboration with Drs. Anita Chong, Robert Daum, Christopher Montgomery, and Susan Boyle-Vavra to study the immune responses to MRSA with the long-term goal of providing insight into why recurrent disease is common and why vaccine development has been problematic. This collaboration will also provide insight for ways to improve treatment strategies.

Anita S. Chong, PhD

Anita S. Chong, PhD

Professor, Section of Transplantation, Department of Surgery

Dr. Chong's research laboratory focuses on defining the barriers that prevent the induction or maintenance of graft tolerance, and that elicit acute allograft rejection. Her lab recently observed that transplantation tolerance is prevented by pre-sensitized B cells or alloantibodies and is focused on investigating the mechanism by which pre-sensitized B cells and alloantibodies prevent the induction of tolerance, through altering the activation requirements of naïve alloreactive T cells. Her laboratory, in collaboration with Dr. Alegre's group, is also investigating the role of live bacterial, including Staphylococcus, infections as barriers of transplantation tolerance. In collaboration with Drs. Daum, Boyle-Vavra, and Montgomery her lab has embarked on the study of the immunobiology of Staphylococcus infections in rodents and in the clinic. Dr. Chong received her B.Sc. in Zoology/Ecology from the University of Malaya, Malaysia, and her Ph.D. in Cell Biology/Immunology from the Australian National University, Australia.

Bernard Ewigman, MD, MSPH

Bernard Ewigman, MD, MSPH

Chairman and Professor, Department of Family Medicine

Dr. Ewigman came to The University of Chicago as Founding Chairman of the Department of Family Medicine after 28 years at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he was a professor and had served as Director of Research, Director of the Academic Family Medicine Fellowship, Medical Director of the Family Health Center and Director of the Center for Family Medicine Science. He practiced the full spectrum of family medicine including obstetrics and inpatient care for 18 years. He has done seminal studies on the outcomes of ultrasound diagnosis among pregnant women and on the epidemiology and prevention of child abuse and neglect. He is the Founder, President and Executive Editor of the Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN) and has served as the founding editor of four FPIN publications: Evidence Based Practice, Clinical Inquiries & Priority Updates from the Research Literature in the Journal of Family Practice and the Physicians Electronic Portable Information Database for Primary Care.  He also serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Family Practice. He currently serves as a Co-investigator, as the Lead of the Community Translational Science Cluster, as Director of the Knowledge Translation Unit, on the Executive Committee and on the Operations Committee of the Institute for Translational Medicine at The University of Chicago. Dr. Ewigman has won numerous research and teaching awards and honors, most notably, the Pew Primary Care Research Award given to one leading primary care researcher annually from the fields of general internal medicine, general pediatrics, or family medicine.

Diane S. Lauderdale, PhD

Diane S. Lauderdale, PhD

Department Chair & Professor (Epidemiology)

Dr. Lauderdale is an Epidemiologist with research interests in health behaviors, health of immigrant populations, epidemiological methods and social epidemiology; she is the author of over 70 peer-reviewed articles. She received a B.A. in Religion from Harvard University, M.A. degrees in Divinity and Library Science from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health. In 2009, with Charles Macal of Argonne National Laboratory as co-PI, Dr. Lauderdale was awarded a research center in the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) network of NIGMS/NIH. The project, titled "Modeling MRSA in the Community," includes Drs. Daum and David as MRSA experts, as well as co-investigators in the social sciences, Bayesian statistics, and large scale computing. The goal of the project is to create an agent-based model of Chicago to explore the spread and control of MRSA.

Christopher P. Montgomery, MD Photograph by Brian Warling

Christopher P. Montgomery, MD

Instructor, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine

Dr. Montgomery's clinical duties consist of service in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, where he has quickly gained an appreciation for the severe clinical manifestations of CA-MRSA disease, including the newly described syndrome of necrotizing pneumonia and severe sepsis. Dr. Montgomery's clinical experience caring for children with severe CA-MRSA disease has led him to begin investigating the pathophysiology of this devastating disease. His research focuses on the molecular determinants of virulence of the dominant CA-MRSA pulsotype, called USA300, and their role in the development of necrotizing pneumonia. Dr. Montgomery received his BA (Health Sciences) from Kalamazoo College and his MD from Wayne State University. He completed his residency in Pediatrics and Fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care at the University of Chicago.

Phoebe A. Rice, PhD

Phoebe A. Rice, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and The College

Dr. Rice is an expert in the structural biology and biochemistry of DNA recombinases, serves on the editorial board of Mobile DNA, and recently edited a book on the structural biology of protein–nucleic acid interactions. Systems currently under study in her lab include LexA (the regulator of the bacterial DNA damage response), the bacteriophage mu transposition system, and yeast Rad51. She also studies two very different types of serine recombinase from S. aureus. One project, in collaboration with the Stark group in Glasgow, focuses on Sin, which is found on many multi-drug resistance plasmids. The second project is in collaboration with the MRSA Research Center Lab and focuses on the Ccr family, responsible for the mobility of the methicillin-resistance encoding SCCmec element. Dr. Rice completed her Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University and postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).