Dr. Alejandro Aballay recruited as new chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

August 8, 2017

Dr. Alejandro Aballay

OHSU School of Medicine Dean Sharon Anderson has appointed Alejandro Aballay, Ph.D., as chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) following a national recruitment search. The appointment is effective September 1, 2017. Dr. Aballay will succeed Susan Hayflick, M.D., who has served as interim chair. 

"Dr. Aballay will support and build on the work of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology while also reaching out and encouraging collaboration with colleagues involved in infectious disease research across OHSU," said Dean Anderson. "Thank you to the search committee, led by Dr. David Jacoby, for conducting such a successful national search and to Dr. Susan Hayflick for her stewardship of the department as interim chair while also leading the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics." 

Dr. Aballay comes to OHSU from Duke University Medical Center where he is a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology and director of the Center for Host-Microbial Interactions. 

"I am honored to be named the next chair of MMI," said Dr. Aballay. "I am looking forward to taking advantage of the wonderful opportunities at OHSU to develop a strong interdisciplinary program that uses novel strategies to address some of the most challenging questions in infectious diseases in the broad sense and in conditions involving an awry immune system." 

Dr. Aballay received his Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the Nacional de Cuyo University Medical School in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1998. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Washington University School of Medicine, in 1999, on intracellular trafficking. He completed a second postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, in 2002, on molecular pathogenesis under the mentorship of Dr. Frederick Ausubel.

Dr. Aballay joined the Duke faculty in 2002 and launched a multidisciplinary research program studying neural circuits involved in the control of stress responses and innate immunity. His team also studies the effects of inflammation on the nervous system.

Alejandro-Aballay-environmental background

"Recent studies from our laboratory indicate that different immune mechanisms are regulated at the organismal level by the nervous system," said Dr. Aballay. "Our studies are based on the general hypothesis that immune pathways are regulated at the cell-autonomous level and, by the nervous system, at the organismal level. We are taking advantage of the simple and well-studied nervous and immune systems of C. elegans to develop a whole-animal, high-throughput system for chemical and genetic screens for novel immunomodulators and drugs capable of enhancing the imprinting of pathogen-induced aversive behaviors. These studies are very well aligned with the national BRAIN Initiative."

Dr. Aballay has published in ScienceDevelopmental Cell,PNAS and Current Biology. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, AAAS and a member of multiple editorial boards, including VirulenceJournal of Pathogens and Frontiers in Microbial Immunology. He has served on a number of grant review panels for the National Science Foundation and NIH. He has received a prestigious NIH MERIT Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for his research project on the role of the nervous system in controlling immunity.

"Dr. Aballay joins a formidable lineup of long-serving and new basic science leaders who together are taking research at OHSU to new heights," said Mary Stenzel-Poore, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research, OHSU School of Medicine. "This is an exciting moment for the department, the school and the institution, and I am grateful to the search committee and the MMI faculty for the energy and expertise they gave to Dr. Aballay's selection."

Dr. Hayflick, current interim MMI chair, will step down and continue as chair of the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics.  

A diverse group of primary faculty, joint faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers make up the OHSU School of Medicine Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology labs. MMI faculty are active in the scientific community and within OHSU, serving on NIH study sections, as editors for prestigious journals, and as members on university committees and councils. The department maintains close collaboration with the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, the Oregon National Primate Research Center and the VA Portland Health Care Systemas well as Providence Portland Medical Center, with many principal investigators at both locations holding adjunct faculty status with the department.