Immunology and Infectious Disease

At the University of Minnesota, research in immunology and infectious disease are both globally recognized for their pioneering work and broad range of research.

Immunology and infectious disease continue to be at the forefront of research here at the University of Minnesota Medical School. 

Our infectious disease experts evaluate and implement interventions to prevent illnesses and death from occurring by existing and emerging infectious diseases both locally and internationally.

In addition, the Center for Immunology has risen to become one of the top immunology research institutions in the world. Work in the development of the immune system and immunodeficiencies here at the Medical School dates back to the 1960s–70s.

Current research strengths include a variety of topics, such as:

  • Immune deficiencies in children
  • Epidemiology and transmission of viral infections including herpes viruses
  • Immune suppression caused by HIV
  • The role of small RNAs in patients with Lyme disease and tuberculosis.

Discovering ways to prevent T Cell depletion in HIV

Timothy Schacker, M.D.Timothy Schacker, MD, professor of medicine, is an infectious disease specialist and serves as director of the Infectious Disease Clinic. Schacker has been recognized for developing an internationally known program researching how HIV causes immune suppression.

His group recently made the discovery of a process of inflammatory damage in the lymphatic tissues, which is the principal location for HIV infections. After this discovery, Schacker and his team are working on testing novel therapies to prevent and or reverse this process as well as slow the depletion of T Cells in HIV.

In addition, Schacker has established a collaboration with the Joint Clinical Research Center in Kampala, Uganda, to study how regular exposure to common infections (i.e. malaria and tuberculosis) affect HIV progression and transmission.

From 2011-2013, Schacker was awarded with the Best Doctors in America award.

Developing vaccines for infectious diseases

Mark Schleiss, M.D.Mark Schleiss, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics and director of pediatric infectious diseases, has received awards for his work and is a member of various research societies. He focuses on the study of CMV (Cytomegalovirus) vaccines, immunopathogenesis, and placental infection.

Currently, Schleiss’ lab is using animals to evaluate the extent of protection the maternal-placental-fetal unit provides against CMV. Schleiss was also named one of the Best Doctors in America from 2011-2013.

Identifying RNA molecules for early cancer detection

Lynne Bemis, Ph.D.Professor and Head of Biomedical Sciences Lynne Bemis, PhD, focuses on identifying novel RNA molecules as biomarkers for earlier cancer detection, specifically in ovarian cancer and melanoma.

In addition to her work in cancer biology, Bemis is interested in the role of small RNAs in infectious disease.

She is currently studying small RNAs expressed in patients with Lyme disease and with tuberculosis.

Immunology and infectious disease research across the U

Scholars in the department are committed to discovering and disseminating knowledge about the microbial world.

The Center for Immunology is an interdisciplinary unit at the University of Minnesota devoted to advancing the field of immunology and educating future immunologists.

Faculty manage programs in clinical care, education, and research at five teaching hospitals associated with the University of Minnesota Medical School.

The division searches for a cure for a variety of immunological and inflammatory diseases that affect a wide range of organ systems.

Learn more about the University’s work in infectious disease across the health sciences.

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Recent publications

  • McAllister SC, Schleiss MR. 2015. Prospects and perspectives for development of a vaccine against herpes simplex virus infections. Expert Review of Vaccines 13(11):1349-1360.
  • Schacker TW. 2015.Defining success with antiretroviral therapy. JAMA Internal Medicine 175(1):99-100.
  • Pourhossein B, Yaghmaei F, Esmaeili S, Banafshi O, Afrasiabian S, Shirzadi MR, Schleiss M, Mostafavi E. 2014. Acute Human Cytomegalovirus Infection with Bleeding in Iran. Osong Public Health and Research Perspectives 5(6):383-386

Grants and awards

  • Director of the Center for Immunology Marc Jenkins, PhD, Microbiology and Immunology, received the Dean's Distinguished Research Lectureship (2015)
  • The University of Minnesota Medical School received a National Research Service Award Research Training Grant (T35) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support medical student research in the area of immunology. Dan Mueller, MD, Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases, is principal investigator of the grant. Read more
  • Mark Schleiss, MD, Pediatrics' Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology, is PI on a study funded by Ansun Biopharma Inc. called A Phase II, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled study to examine the effects of DAS181 in Immunocompromised subjects with Lower Respiratory Tract Parainfluenza Infection on Supplemental Oxygen (2014-2020)
  • Mark Schleiss, MD, Pediatrics' Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology, receives grant to pursue Novel Vectored Glycoprotein Immunization in Guinea Pigs Against Cytomegalovirus (2013-2016)