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September 16, 2022

Leading Virus Researcher to Chair UVA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology

The School of Medicine has recruited Mariano A. Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD, an internationally recognized expert in virology and RNA biology, to lead its Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology. 

“Dr. Garcia-Blanco is a nationally recognized researcher in helping the scientific community better understand gene expression in viruses, and he combines that knowledge with deep experience as both an educator and the leader of a department,” said Melina R. Kibbe, MD, the dean of the UVA School of Medicine and chief health affairs officer for UVA Health. “Together with this skills and background, he has a clear vision for a department that is conducting cutting-edge research of vital importance.”

Garcia-Blanco comes to UVA from the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he has served as chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology since September 2014. A founder of five biotechnology companies and holder of over 11 patents, Garcia-Blanco is a member of the United Nations’ Council of Scientific Advisers for the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, and he has previously been a member of the National Institutes of Health’s National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council. He has also been elected to the Association of American Physicians and named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Continuously funded by the NIH since the early 1990s, Dr. Garcia-Blanco has co-authored more than 190 peer-reviewed scientific publications. His research has focused on how the interactions between proteins and RNA regulate gene expression in cells and viruses. His projects have ranged from examining ways to dial the immune system – down in autoimmune diseases and up in cancer – to identifying new targets to treat diseases caused by flaviviruses, such as yellow fever, Zika and West Nile. His work has also shed important light on multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders.

As an educator, Dr. Garcia-Blanco has been educating undergraduate, graduate and medical students on topics such as gene regulation, nucleic acids, cancer biology, and autoimmunity, among others.  He has mentored over 20 doctoral students and 40 postdoctoral fellows throughout his career and fostered the career development of countless junior faculty.  Along with his research and teaching at the University of Texas Medical Branch, he is an adjunct professor of emerging infectious diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore. Before coming to Texas, Garcia-Blanco was a faculty member at Duke University from 1990 to 2014.

“Our excellent faculty in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology will benefit greatly from Dr. Garcia-Blanco’s inclusive, servant leadership,” Kibbe said. “I also look forward to seeing how his research continues to help the world better understand both fundamental biology and human disease.”

Garcia-Blanco earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and his MD and PhD from Yale University. He also completed a fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Duke University.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, the School of Medicine, and the University of Virginia, and honored to work with them to achieve excellence in biomedical sciences for the common good,” Garcia-Blanco said. 

He succeeds Amy Bouton, PhD, who had served as interim chair of the Department since October 1, 2021. Her commitment and dedication to the department has been clear to all and very much appreciated.

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