The Department of Microbiology & Immunology faculty have made outstanding contributions to biology and medicine since the department was founded in 1893. Former members include noted immunologist Elvin Kabat, whose research led to the identification of the proteins responsible for antibody activity, and former chairman and world-renowned virologist, Harry Ginsberg, who contributed to understanding how viruses produce disease, discovering that pooled plasma given to wounded soldiers during World War II caused hepatitis B. Past faculty member Sherie Morrison discovered the technology of chimeric antibodies which is used in the development of drugs such as Erbitux and Remicade that have revolutionized treatment of cancer and inflammatory diseases. Current faculty member and former chair Saul Silverstein, in collaboration with Michael Wigler and Nobel Prize winner Richard Axel, helped discover the co-transformation process used to develop important drugs, such as tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), beta interferon and erythropoietin (EPO).
The research interests of the faculty include basic molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, parasitology, virology and immunology. The subjects chosen for study include animal viruses (herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, retroviruses [including HIV-1], poliovirus and other enteroviruses), bacterial pathogens, malarial parasites (the human pathogen Plasmodium falciparum and rodent models), yeast, and the immune response.