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 organisms Streptococcus pyogenes, the causative agent of a number of serious diseases including, pharyngitis (“strep throat”), impetigo, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and acute glomerulonephritis, and Enterococcus faecalis, a major cause of Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections. Symptoms and long-term complications of rheumatic fever are more common in women and girls. Dr. Caparon’s work is involved in how these bacteria use their metabolisms and secreted toxins to manipulate the host’s immune system, how their toxins are delivered to their host cells targets and how adhesive proteins that these bacteria produce to adhere to structures like urinary catheters can be targeted for the development of anti-virulence therapies.
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.
Jonathan H. Sheehan, Ph.D. joined cWIDR in August 2019 as an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease. Dr. Sheehan uses computational structural biology to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying biochemical processes involved in health and disease.
Dr. Sheehan has applied computational techniques such as protein modeling, nucleic acid simulation, small-molecule docking, energetic structural analysis, and others in collaborations with investigators across diverse departments to study cancer, viral, renal, and autoimmune diseases.
Dr. Sheehan studied Classics at Harvard College, earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University, and completed postdoctoral training in the Center for Structural Biology at Vanderbilt University, where he became director of the program in Personalized Structural Biology.
Carolina B. López, Ph.D. joined cWIDR in June 2020 as Professor and BJC Investigator in the Department of Molecular Microbiology. Her laboratory studies viral factors that impact the development of the host’s immune response and the infection outcome. Dr. López is an active member of the American Association of Immunologists and the American Society for Microbiology. She is an Associate Editor for PLoS Pathogens, A Section Editor for the Journal of Immunology, a member of the NIH VIRB study section, a Fellow of the Professional Mentoring Skills Enhancing Diversity Program funded by the NIH-National Research Mentoring Network, and a 2018-2019 US Fulbright Scholar.
Dr. López is a native of Chile where she obtained a Biochemistry degree. She earned a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NY (Formerly Mount Sinai School of Medicine) where she continued for her postdoctoral training. She began her independent career at the University of Pennsylvania.
Christina L. Stallings, PhD joined cWIDR in 2020 as an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology. She also serves as the Director for the Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis Graduate Program at Washington University and Co-founder of the Philip and Sima Needleman Center for Autophagy Therapeutics and Research. Her research program integrates microbiology and immunology to study infectious disease, where her laboratory’s main focus is investigating the molecular mechanisms involved in Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogenesis. She has been awarded a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award, an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award, and an American Lung Association Young Investigator Award, under which she was designated a TB Scholar. She previously served as Chair for the Mycobacteriology Division of the American Society for Microbiology and the working group focused on the Next Generation Researchers Initiative in the Advisory Committee to the Director of the NIH. She currently serves as an Editor for the American Society for Microbiology mBio and mSphere Journals, as well as, an Editor for eLife and PLOS Biology. She is a member of the PCMB NIH study section and the Executive Committee for the Orange County Beckman Legacy Award.
Drew Schwartz, MD, PhD joined cWIDR in September 2022 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Schwartz’s lab seeks to understand how neonatal microbes assemble at birth and how the gut microbiome and neonatal immune response protect against or facilitate serious bacterial infections. The lab uses next-generation sequencing, immune profiling, and computational analyses of the gut microbiome in human and gnotobiotic mouse models to develop biomarkers of pediatric sepsis. His goal is to deliver gut microbiome-based personalized risk assessment and antibiotic stewardship for neonates and children.
Dr. Schwartz is a graduate of the Medical Scientist Training Program and the Molecular Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis graduate program at Washington University School of Medicine. He completed pediatric residency and infectious disease fellowship through the Pediatric Physician Scientist Training Program at Washington University School of Medicine.