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Kate Fitzgerald

Kate Fitzgerald, PhD To Deliver First Eberly Distinguished Lecture of 2015

Kate Fitzgerald, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Co-Director of the Program in Innate Immunity in the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will deliver the first Eberly Distinguished Lecture of 2015. Her talk, “Long Non-Coding RNA: New Links in the Inflammatory Cascade,” is from Noon-1 p.m. on Thursday, February 19, in Lecture Room 6, Scaife Hall. A reception will follow the lecture.

Dr. Fitzgerald received her B.Sc. in Biochemistry in 1995 from University College Cork, Ireland, and her Ph.D. in 1999 from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. From 1999 to 2002, she was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin. Dr. Fitzgerald joined the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as a recipient of a Wellcome Trust International Award in 2001, and, in 2004, she received a faculty appointment.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s research has focused on all things related to innate immunity and the inflammatory process, with signal transduction and gene regulation being her particular area of expertise. Active research areas include: (1) biology and role of inflammasomes in anti-microbial immunity, (2) cytosolic nucleic acid recognition systems in anti-viral defense and autoimmune disease, (3) long non-coding RNAs in the immune system, and (4) innate immunity to Malaria. Enabling these studies, her research spans the disciplines of immunology, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics.

Dr. Fitzgerald entered the field of immunology by discovering Mal/TIRAP, a central adapter in TLR4 signaling. Since then, she has discovered TRAM, an adapter molecule important downstream of TLR4 in controlling interferon production. In her own lab at UMASS, she has made multiple discoveries that have continued to impact our understanding of host-pathogen interactions. These include the discovery that TBK1/IKKe is responsible for the activation of IRF3 and IRF7. Dr. Fitzgerald has also made major contributions to our understanding of the inflammasome where she identified the AIM2 inflammasome’s importance in host-defense to viruses and bacteria. Recent studies have advanced our understanding of how Gram-negative bacteria are detected by the NLRP3 inflammasome. Her lab identified a TRIF dependent pathway that licenses NLRP3 inflammasome activation through engagement of the caspase-11 protease. Finally, newer work in her lab has begun to examine the impact of long non-coding RNA species which are induced during host-pathogen interactions and which in turn act to coordinate transcriptional responses in innate immunity.

Dr. Fitzgerald has received several awards recognizing her significant scientific achievements in immunology and cytokine research. These include the 2014 Seymour & Vivian Milstein Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research awarded by the International Cytokine and Interferon Society, 2014 BD-Biosciences Investigator Award from the American Association of Immunologists, and the 2014 Eli Lilly and Company-Elanco Research Award.