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Infectious Diseases Expert Wins Stockton Kimball Award

Published June 6, 2017

Thomas Russo, MD

Thomas Russo, MD

Thomas A. Russo, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, has received the 2017 Stockton Kimball Award for consistent academic accomplishment, significant research discoveries and contributions to the progress of the university and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

In presenting the award, Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities, noted Russo has been a “valued university citizen for many years, contributing to teaching in medical and dental school courses and medical student and fellows training, and extensive service to the profession, SUNY, university, school, department and community.”

“Tom’s career exemplifies excellence in its broadest sense,” she said.

Interested in Infectious Diseases at Outset of Career

Russo, who holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, became interested in infectious disease and research early in his career.

After earning his undergraduate degree from Tufts University and his medical degree from McGill University, he completed a clinical and research fellowship in infectious diseases at Harvard Medical School and Tufts-New England Medical Center.

Following his fellowship, Russo was a senior staff fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s Laboratory of Clinical Investigation for five years before being appointed at UB in 1994.

Russo has been honored at UB with the SUNY Inventor Award, and as a Top 100 Principal Investigator, and as a visionary inventor for his technology related to the use of microorganisms as controls for assay specificity and detection.

In 2012, he received the UB Exceptional Scholar Sustained Achievement Award.

Russo has served as a staff physician at the Buffalo VA Medical Center since 1998 and has served as a reviewer for merit grants from the VA, as well as a reviewer on several National Institutes of Health (NIH) study sections, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program, and for the Institut Pasteur.

Focus on Pathogenesis, Vaccine and Drug Development

Laychock noted that throughout his career, Russo’s research focus has been on pathogenesis and vaccine and drug development against extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli (E. coli), Acinetobacter baumannii (A. baumannii), and a new pathotype of Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Among his many research highlights:

  • He holds a patent on his identification of a vaccine candidate from an extraintestinal isolate of E. coli.
  • His work led to a proposal for a new inclusive designation for extraintestinal pathogenic isolates of E. coli (ExPEC).
  • Russo’s group identified a new iron-regulated virulence gene, ireA, in ExPEC. He and his colleagues also identified a potential vaccine candidate in one of the receptors found in ExPEC, and soon after identified other prospects for vaccine development.
  • He pursued investigations into the capsule polysaccharide from A. baumannii, a gram-negative bacterium often associated with nosocomial hospital-acquired infections, as a therapeutic target with immunization potential. He and his group also identified dihydroorotase dehydrogenase as a potential drug target for A. baumannii.
  • In 2015, Russo and his colleagues published a review of the important complexities of the antivirulence target paradigm and proposed a novel resistance-avoiding approach for treating infections.

Research Funded by NIH and VA Merit Review Grants

Russo has published 88 peer-reviewed papers and 33 book chapters, including his many chapters in the heralded Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine.

He is currently principal investigator on an NIH grant for development of a diagnostic test for hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae, and he is a co-principal investigator for an NIH-supported project to develop a high-throughput assay for inhibitors of aerobactin production in hypervirulent Klebsiella pneumoniae. He has in the past been funded for many years by the NIH and VA Merit review grants.

Russo is vice chair of finance for the Department of Medicine and is the outgoing president of Faculty Council, the governing body of the medical school.

Award Honors Former Medical School Dean

Russo accepted the honor May 18 during the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences’ Faculty and Staff Recognition Awards celebration.

He will deliver the Stockton Kimball Lecture in 2018.

The award and lecture recognize an outstanding scholar and researcher who has also contributed significantly to the school. It is named in memory of Stockton Kimball, MD ’29, dean of the medical school from 1946 to 1958.