Thomas Burke, PhD. Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, was recruited from UC Berkeley, in fall 2021. Dr. Burke research program is on innate immunity to the obligate tick-borne parasite, Rickettsia parkeri, specifically the role of Type I IFNs using a murine model that develops eschars following infection. He showed that R. parkeri curtails cGAS-dependent IFN-I production by causing caspase- 11-dependent pyroptosis. Together, these studies revealed a novel strategy of intracellular growth by a bacterial pathogen, which were published in Nature Microbiology in 2020, and in eLife and Science Advances in 2021.
IFI Research Focus Area(s): Host Defense and Vaccine DevelopmentRickettisa, bacterial pathogenesis