Center for Vaccines and Immunology, Department of Infectious Diseases
Professor, UGA Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Virology and Immunology
Animal Models of Human Disease | Cell Culture | Disease Pathogenesis | Immunology | Infectious Diseases | Pathogenesis | Vaccinology | Virology
S. Mark Tompkins, PhD, received his doctorate in immunology from Emory University and then studied immune mechanisms of antigen- and virus-induced autoimmune diseases as a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University Medical School. In 2002, Dr. Tompkins joined the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA as a Research Fellow, focusing on influenza virus vaccines and therapies.
Dr. Tompkins joined the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 2005, where he is a member of a NIAID Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. In 2012, he was awarded a Senior Fulbright Scholar’s Award to work with the Australian Animal Health Laboratories in Geelong, Australia for six months. In 2016, Dr. Tompkins joined UGA’s newly established Center for Vaccines and Immunology to collaborate with members on cutting edge vaccines for infectious disease.
His research focuses on understanding the emergence, pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of influenza viruses. These studies include surveillance for influenza virus in animal populations, susceptibility of different species to influenza infection, and influenza virus evolution. Areas of research include dissecting virus-host interactions at the cellular and host level and exploiting these interactions to collaboratively develop novel vaccines, antiviral drugs, and treatments for human and animal use.
- Immune response to influenza virus infection
- Development of novel vaccines and therapeutics for seasonal and pandemic influenza
- Anti-viral RNA interference
My laboratory focuses on understanding the immune response to influenza virus infection and developing novel vaccines and treatments for use against human and avian influenza strains. Influenza virus infects about 10% of the world population annually. In the United States alone, influenza infection is responsible for about 36,000 mortalities. Moreover, avian influenza continues to pose the threat of a pandemic that the world is unprepared for. New vaccines and therapeutic strategies are needed.
In general, my research is centered on understanding the immune response to influenza infection. By understanding how immunity to influenza in initiated and maintained we can better design new vaccines and therapies. Additionally, influenza infection is often followed with other respiratory infections that can lead to additional pathology and clinical symptoms. Understanding how the immune system responds to polymicrobial infections and how the multiple pathogens impact the immune response is critical for designing effective treatments for these diseases.
My vaccine and therapeutic research is focused in two areas. The first area is centered on using RNA interference as a therapy to inhibit viral replication in vivo and protect animals against lethal influenza virus challenge. Using an established murine model of influenza infection, we have demonstrated that treatment in vivo with influenza-specific small, interfering RNAs can suppress viral replication and protect animals from lethal infection. Future studies are directed toward development of this technology as a viable therapy with particular interest in its efficacy in immunocompromised individuals and against pandemic influenza. The second focus involves vaccination studies using modified plasmid and viral vectors. These vectors can induce immunity against highly conserved influenza antigens and provide broadly cross-reactive protection against influenza infection. Previous studies have shown that vaccination with vectors expressing conserved components of the influenza virus can provide protection against influenza challenge, including highly pathologic avian influenza viruses. Continuing vaccine studies are directed toward enhancing and fully characterizing this protection, using novel adjuvants and delivery systems, with the ultimate goal of developing a universal influenza vaccine.