cWIDR Leadership Team &
The Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research is an interdisciplinary effort to establish a new field of research on communicable diseases that affect women and girls. From its inception, the cWIDR has teamed up with several departments to sponsor new faculty recruitments to the Center to form a team of core investigators developing research programs directly in this field.
In addition, the cWIDR includes member faculty from many schools and departments within Washington University.
Scott J. Hultgren, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research
Dr. Hultgren holds the Helen Lehbrink Stoever Endowed Professorship in Molecular Microbiology, and was elected to the National Academy of Science in 2011 and the National Academy of Medicine in 2017. His major research focus has been the discovery of bacterial and host mechanisms that determine the onset, course and outcome of urinary tract infections (UTIs), one of the most common infections in women, responsible for billions of dollars of health care costs each year.
Using a broad multi-disciplinary approach, including genetics, genomics, biochemistry, X-ray crystallography, cell biology and animal models, he has established new paradigms in the pathogenesis of uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC). Dr. Hultgren’s work is leading to the design of novel anti-virulence compounds, biofilm inhibitors and a vaccine that hold promise as alternative therapies for millions of women suffering from UTI syndromes.
Michael G. Caparon, Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Director, Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research
Dr. Caparon is a Professor of Molecular Microbiology whose research is directed at understanding the complex interactions that occur between pathogenic gram positive bacteria and their human hosts during infection. His group is particularly interested in the organism Streptococcus pyogenes, the causative agent of a number of serious diseases including, pharangytis (“strep throat”), impetigo, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and acute glomerulonephritis. Symptoms and long term complications of rheumatic fever are more common in women and girls. Dr. Caparon’s work is identifying adhesive proteins and other secreted molecules involved in S. pyogenes infection that are ideal targets for the development of anti-virulence therapies.
Amanda L. Lewis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology, joined the cWIDR in July 2009. Dr. Lewis’s research is focused on the evolution of associations between animals and their cohabitant bacteria and how carbohydrate molecules influence such interactions. Her lab examines the roles of carbohydrates (glycans) and the enzymes that degrade them (glycosidases) in bacterial population structure and host-microbe interactions, integrating approaches including bacterial genetic systems, analytical biochemistry and glycobiology, genomics, and cell-based and animal models of infection.
Dr. Lewis is investigating how carbohydrate structures on Group B Streptococcus (GBS) help the pathogen evade immune defenses, establish a niche, and persist in the host. GBS commonly colonizes the female urogenital tract and a leading cause of serious infections in pregnant women and newborns. Dr. Lewis’s work aims to identify and exploit carbohydrate-based host-pathogen interactions for the treatment and prevention of infection during the perinatal period.
Dr. Lewis earned her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences and completed her postdoctoral work at University of California at San Diego where she was a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow working with Victor Nizet and Ajit Varki.
Jeffrey P. Henderson, M.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, joined the cWIDR in August 2009. Dr. Henderson’s research seeks to understand how bacterial pathogens colonize their hosts and resist host defenses. His laboratory uses a variety of biochemical and microbiological techniques including quantitative mass spectrometry, chemical biology, bacterial biofilm culture, bacterial genetics, and mouse models of infection to explore infection pathophysiology.
Dr. Henderson recently found that colonizing E. coli strains that cause recurrent urinary tract infections in women acquire or optimize production of small molecules involved in iron scavenging – called siderophores. His work is suggesting new strategies for diagnosing and treating bacterial infectious diseases important to women’s health, like UTI and bacterial vaginosis.
Dr. Henderson earned his M.D. , his Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics, and completed his residency and fellowship training at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) fellow and has received the prestigious Burroughs Wellcome Career Award for Medical Scientists.
Andrew L. Kau, M.D., Ph.D. joined cWIDR in August 2015 as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Allergy/Immunology. Dr. Kau is investigating the role of the microbiota in predisposing women and men to allergic diseases like asthma, eczema and food allergy. His lab uses a combination of metagenomics, next-generation sequencing, computational biology, anaerobic microbiology, immunology and gnotobiotic animal models to identify microbes with the potential to alter allergic sensitization.
Dr. Kau is a graduate of the Washington University Medical Scientist Training Program, completed his residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and fellowship at Washington University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Jeffrey I. Gordon at the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology.