Researcher of the Year Lecture
Please join the UMB community, as well as special guests to congratulate this year's Researcher of the Year award winner Dr. Robert K. Ernst from the School of Dentistry. The Researcher of the Year award highlights the work of a faculty member exhibiting excellence in truly innovative research.
Dr. Ernst and his colleagues are engineering rationally designed mimetics based on bacterial surface molecules that will inhibit the body's immune response to sepsis, a condition that causes a death every two minutes in the U.S.
In particular, he is at the forefront of innovative research studying the molecular basis by which bacteria modify the lipid component of their membrane, specifically lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and how these alterations affect or circumvent normal host innate immune system responses, potentially resulting in septic shock. Additionally, these modifications can promote resistance to host innate immune-killing mechanisms by antimicrobial compounds.
Therefore, altering the biosynthesis of LPS can render the bacteria more susceptible to host cell killing and/or antimicrobial intervention and serve as novel components or adjuvants required for the development of more effective vaccines.
The work of Dr. Ernst, a member of the School of Dentistry faculty since 2008, has attracted ongoing funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), MedImmune, as well as University of Maryland Ventures Seed Grant Funding and the state of Maryland Technology Development Corporation.
An advocate of interprofessional research, he has four colleagues from the School of Pharmacy on the NIH sepsis proposal. One of them, David Goodlett, PhD, co-founded a startup diagnostic company with Dr. Ernst called Pataigin. Its patented test "BACLIB" inexpensively identifies bacteria- and fungi-caused infections in less than an hour.