HHMI investigator

Camilli joins elite fraternity of scientists

Andrew Camilli, associate professor of molecular biology and microbiology at the School of Medicine, has been named one of 43 new Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators. Members of this elite scientific fraternity receive long-term, generous funding for their labs in recognition of the cutting-edge nature of their work.

Andrew Camilli © Mark Morelli

Camilli, the third HHMI investigator in infectious diseases at Tufts, researches how cholera and pneumonia bacteria gain virulence in the body.

He was a pioneer in developing methods to determine how bacteria act inside an infected host. Camilli and his research team discovered that the bacterium that causes cholera gains momentum and strength while passing through the digestive tract, potentially solving a long-standing medical mystery on the virulence of the disease.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, founded in 1953, appoints new investigators approximately every three years through a national competition to identify promising biomedical scientists. The 43 new scientists join 298 current HHMI investigators at more than 60 institutions around the country.

“I’m working to understand the basic mechanisms of how bacterial pathogens cause disease,” Camilli said. “If we can understand how pathogens travel and present themselves within the body, we are a step closer to the development of more effective vaccines and antibiotics.

“Diarrheal diseases and pneumonia are worldwide threats, and these two bacterial pathogens are emblematic of numerous other pathogens. Unraveling these mysteries may help to understand other pathogens in addition to bringing us closer to controlling cholera and pneumonia,” Camilli said.

“One of the biggest challenges facing medicine here and around the world is better understanding and treatment of infectious diseases,” said Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, dean of the School of Medicine. “Dr. Camilli’s research contributes to the body of knowledge that will help eradicate or fully control diseases that plague us.”

Ralph Isberg, professor of microbiology, and Dr. Matthew Waldor, associate professor of molecular biology and microbiology, are the two other HHMI investigators at Tufts. Isberg’s research focuses on how bacteria enter and grow within cells, while Waldor’s work investigates the evolution of bacterial pathogens.

Officials at the Maryland-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute said they will invest more than $300 million in biomedical research over the next seven years, largely to support the newly named investigators’ research. The recipients remain at their home institutions but become employees of the institute.