issue Summer 2021

Announcing Key University Recruitments - Rahul Vijay

Rahul Vijay, DVM, PhD

Infectious disease immunologist Rahul Vijay, DVM, PhD, joins the Center for Cancer Cell Biology, Immunology and Infection and the Department of Foundational Sciences and Humanities in CMS from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, where he was a research scientist in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Dr. Vijay uses an integrated “omics” approach in his research — such as lipidomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics — to study infectious diseases on a systemic scale to reveal fundamental new information about the regulation and function of host immunity to infectious diseases.

During his PhD training, Dr. Vijay investigated the roles of lipid mediators in regulating immune response during coronavirus infections. He established that the age-dependent immunosuppression observed during the SARS-CoV outbreak of 2003–04 was, in part, due to increased expression of a single phospholipase, Pla2g2d, resulting in enhanced secretion of anti-inflammatory lipids. He published the findings in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

His recruitment will also help facilitate research collaboration among existing faculty members.

Dr. Vijay, who completed postdoctoral fellowships at both the University of Iowa and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has authored 18 publications, many appearing in high impact biomedical journals, including PNAS, Immunity and Nature Communication. His most recent work uncovered that antibody-secreting, short-lived plasmablasts impair germinal center-dependent humoral immunity.

“During malaria infection, the appearance of a large number of a certain class of early antibody producing cells — historically considered a surrogate for protection — has been widely reported,” Dr. Vijay said. “Our study reveals that these early immune cells, instead of acting as an armor against the disease, derails protective antibody response by depleting key nutrients.” 

Published in Nature Immunology, the work has been hailed as a paradigm shift from the previously held dogma that plasmablasts play a protective role in humoral immunity.

Center Director Johnny He, PhD, said Dr. Vijay will strengthen research in infectious disease immunology.

“In addition to expertise in T cell and B cell immunology, Dr. Vijay is well-versed in the areas of inflammation, parasitology, virology and neuroscience,” Dr. He said. “His recruitment will also help facilitate research collaboration among existing faculty members.”

Dr. Vijay holds a PhD in immunology from the University of Iowa. He earned a doctor of veterinary medicine from Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala, India, and an MS in biology from Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.