Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Beverley, Stephen M.
Location Washington University in St. Louis
Primary Field Animal, Nutritional and Applied Microbial Sciences
Secondary Field Microbial Biology
 Election Citation
Beverley is a founding scientist and world leader of modern molecular parasitology. His seminal contributions, from the starting stages of basic discovery to practical applications of his findings, changed the way research was done on parasites and produced novel approaches for developing chemotherapy and vaccines for leishmaniasis.
 Research Interests
Beverley's laboratory has focused on the introduction of modern concepts of microbial pathogenesis and molecular genetics into the study of protozoan parasites of humans, primarily the trypanosomatid Leishmania. Studies of drug resistance, extra-chromosomal gene amplification and transcription led to the development of the first transfection system enabling both forward and reverse genetics, and have been widely adopted in the field. Beverley's lab has put them to use in dissecting the role of major parasite surface glycoconjugates in parasite survival in both mammalian and insect hosts, immune recognition and evasion, identification of novel pathways of folate and pteridine metabolic amenable to chemotherapeutic attack, and the use of genetically modified parasites as safe live vaccine lines. Modified parasites also provide therapeutic opportunities for use as live nanoplatforms for delivery of therapeutic proteins, an approach pursued by a company Beverley co-founded. Leishmania genetic methods continue to evolve, including the use of imported mariner transposons, conditional gene expression, RNA interference, and genetic crossing (which occurs only in the sand fly vector). Beverley spearheaded an NIHGRI/AID project for trypanosomatid genome sequencing which has led to comprehensive coverage of the genomes of diverse Leishmania species manifesting widely varying severity in humans, and key outgroups relevant to the origins of vertebrate parasitism. Studies of RNA interference have led to the question of why most species of Leishmania have lost this vital pathway in evolution, and the potential role of transposable elements and RNA viruses. Remarkably, the dsRNA virus LRV1 dramatically increases the severity of leishmaniasis, perhaps providing a driving force for RNAi loss, but also providing new opportunities for understanding parasite virulence and the role of 'endosymbiontic' viruses in biology and as potential targets for therapeutic interventions.

 
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