May 25, 2001

Infectious Diseases chief named

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Infectious Diseases chief named

Dr. Richard D’Aquila will lead the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as the Addison B. Scoville Professor of Medicine. D’Aquila will assume the position of chief Sept. 1.

Currently at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, D’Aquila is an expert in antiretroviral therapy and the molecular genetics of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). His laboratory and clinical research focuses on HIV pathogenesis during antiretroviral drug therapy, particularly defining the changes in the HIV genome in response to therapeutic selective pressures and the effects of those changes on virus replication. His studies also include characterization of virus replication and evolution in different reservoirs and compartments within the body, including those relevant for long-term virus persistence during effective therapy and virus spread from one person to another. He is one of the international leaders in this field who are developing consensus guidelines for resistance testing for antiretroviral management in clinical laboratories and resistance-based rationales for specific sequential regimens of antiretroviral drugs.

D’Aquila is director of Molecular Virology in the Partners AIDS Research Center, associate physician in the Massachusetts General Hospital Infectious Disease Division, associate chair of the Harvard Medical Area Committee on Microbiological Safety, and the principal investigator of the Harvard Virology Support Laboratory for the NIAID AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG). He is now co-chair of the Virology Subcommittee in the NIAID ACTG HIV Disease Research Agenda Committee (RAC). He also serves on the NIH CSR AIDS Therapeutic Discovery and Development Study Section, and the NIH HIV Prevention Trials Network Antiretroviral Treatment Working Group. He has received a number of honors and is a member of numerous professional societies.

D’Aquila speaks throughout the world and his research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has also undertaken research and developed educational programs, supported by grants from pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies including Agouron, Bristol Myers Squibb, Dupont, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Hoffman-LaRoche, and Visible Genetics.

D’Aquila received his B.A. (Magna) degree from Yale in 1975 and his M.D. degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1979. After internal medicine training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, he became an infectious diseases fellow at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1982. He then did a research fellowship in molecular virology in the Departments of Therapeutic Radiology, Human Genetics, and Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry before joining the faculty in Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine.

In 1989, he was recruited to Massachusetts General Hospital where he rose through the ranks to associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“I am thrilled to lead this nationally-recognized, collegial division and am strongly committed to continuing the tradition of excellence in Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt,” D’Aquila said. “This appointment is an exciting scientific opportunity for me, because of the outstanding clinical strengths and the broad scientific expertise in microbial pathogenesis, genomics, and pharmacology at Vanderbilt. These interdisciplinary interactions will spark new lines of research into the complex interplay between the genomes of pathogens and humans – the new frontier of Infectious Disease research.

D’Aquila plans to continue to foster a cohesive division that works together to sustain current strengths and to develop new initiatives in research, education, and clinical care.

“The Comprehensive Care Program is clearly one of the finest programs for HIV care in the nation,” he said. “The division will develop an expanded HIV research enterprise around this clinical resource, as well as the many existing scientific collaborators at Vanderbilt. We will also continue to strengthen existing translational research programs in molecular diagnostics, epidemiology of infections, and the pathogenesis of viruses, bacteria, and mycobacteria.

“We will work to continually improve our support of the cutting-edge clinical care programs at Vanderbilt in transplantation and emerging pathogens. Interactions with other regional hospitals, providers, and health departments will grow. We will expand mentoring opportunities for our own fellows and also develop training programs and research interactions for clinicians around the globe, particularly in HIV medicine. I am eager to get started in September.”

Dr. Eric G. Neilson, Hugh J. Morgan Professor and Chair of Medicine sees D’Aquila as a critical addition to the department.

“While Dr. D’Aquila and the infectious diseases faculty will be working to further enhance a strong interdisciplinary relationship between the Departments of Microbiology and Immunology, Pediatrics, Preventive Medicine, and the Comprehensive Care Center in many areas of infectious diseases, we also have an important new opportunity to contribute to the understanding and management of this growing and terrible HIV epidemic in Tennessee,” Neilson said. “I have no doubt that as his program evolves, we will also make significant progress in expanding our comprehensive infectious disease service at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as providing an excellent venue for additional academic investigation. With new leadership now identified, the division is in a superb position to move forward as one of the outstanding infectious diseases training programs in the United States.”