Gregory Lanzaro

2007 Award for Excellence in Research

Gregory Lanzaro conducts research on two of the most important diseases in the developing world. Malaria causes 300-500 million cases of disease and as many as 3 million deaths annually. Leishmaniasis currently infects 12 million people in 88 countries, with symptoms ranging from benign skin lesions to life-threatening visceral disease.

Lanzaro earned his Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Florida in 1986. After serving as assistant entomologist at Mississippi State University, he came to Davis as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Entomology. In 1991 he accepted a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. In 1995 he joined the University of Texas Medical Branch as Assistant Professor of Pathology. Lanzaro left Texas as a full Professor to return to Davis in 2002 as Director of the UC ANR Mosquito Research Program. In 2006 he also assumed directorship of the Center for Vectorborne Diseases and was appointed to the faculty of the Comparative Pathology Graduate Group.

Lanzaro’s research is on the cutting edge of disease ecology, characterizing vector populations using laboratory-based genetic analyses. Through his research on sand fly vectors of leishmaniasis Lanzaro has demonstrated that the composition of fly saliva is extremely variable and that this serves as a mechanism to avoid the host immune response. His research focuses on a protein that is the most potent vasodilator known, maxadilan. Lanzaro demonstrated that maxadilan levels in sand flies correlate with disease severity. This identification of novel proteins has potential for developing vaccines and improves our understanding of the role of host resistance in protozoal disease.

Lanzaro pioneered the use of microsatellite DNA to study the genetics of malaria vector populations in Africa. This approach led to improvements in our ability to estimate levels of gene exchange among populations. The Lanzaro lab also developed a new diagnostic method to detect mutations in insecticide resistance genes. Using this approach, his group described the distribution of the gene in Mali, west Africa, and the rapid evolution of insecticide resistance in response to malaria control campaigns in Equatorial Guinea.

Since 1995 Lanzaro’s research has been continuously supported through grants from NIH. His current grant support totals more than five million dollars. In addition, Lanzaro’s research group recently obtained a five-year Fogarty International Global Infectious Disease Research Training Grant, which supports three young scientists from Mali to do research at Davis.

In 2006 Lanzaro organized a consortium of scientists from five UC campuses to collaborate on microarray analysis of the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. Over the past 5 years, he has produced 31 peer reviewed publications in top academic journals in his field, including Genetics, Journal of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Insect Molecular Biology, and Molecular Ecology. He has given numerous invited presentations at scientific meetings and universities, organized symposia, served as a peer reviewer on eleven journals, and reviewed proposals for foundations and other organizations, including WHO, NSF, and NIH. He is a member of the Vector Biology Study Section at the NIH and serves on the External Advisory Board for the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute.

Congratulations, Greg!

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