Jeniel Nett, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Infectious Disease, has been awarded approximately $2.6 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health–National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (R01 award) for her project, "Mechanism(s) of pathogenicity for Candida auris."
In the project, Nett's team aims to uncover the molecular mechanism of how the drug-resistant fungal pathogen C. auris evades innate immunity, and develop a novel therapeutic strategy to circumvent this mechanism.
Nett's team has found that neutrophils, leukocytes critical for control of many invasive fungal infections, fail to kill C. auris. Their preliminary data provide compelling evidence for the involvement of a C. auris cell wall component.
The team has also identified a subset of neutrophils with enhanced antifungal activity, and plans to capitalize on this finding to delineate the molecular aspects of a successful neutrophil response against C. auris.
Their overall goal is to shed light on the virulence of C. auris, and establish a platform for future neutrophil-based immunotherapies—an approach that they anticipate will have broad implications for the treatment of a variety of drug-resistant or treatment-refractory invasive fungal infections.