Bridging the fields of microbiology and immunology, Arturo Casadevall works to develop immunotherapies for infectious diseases and cancer. His research is focused on fungal and bacterial pathogenesis and basic immunology of antibody structure-function. He has defined much of what is known about fungal pathogenesis and how fungi such as Cryptococcus neoformans evade the host immune response.
Fungal infections are particularly dangerous in immunocompromised individuals such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Casadevall pioneered the use of radioimmunotherapeutic strategies for the control of systemic fungal and other infections. During the course of his studies he noted that certain fungi were radioresistant and worked to develop novel therapeutic strategies for a variety of human diseases including melanoma and infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis.
Casadevall “came of age” as a physician during the height of the 1980s AIDS epidemic. “I couldn’t believe all these people, who were younger than I was, were dying from something we didn’t understand,” he says. He didn’t know whether scientists would be able to treat the virus itself, so he turned his attention to the opportunistic infections that take hold once an immune system has been compromised. Since then, he’s spent more than two decades studying the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, which in the 1980s killed about 10 percent of AIDS patients in the United States and is still a major cause of death in Africa.
In addition to his appointment as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, he also serves as the Alfred and Jill Sommer Professor and Chair of the W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. In these roles, he continues his mission to understand how microbes cause disease and how the immune system defends itself. He says he hopes his work will help protect people from harm caused by new pathogens and resistant organisms, and by compromised immune systems resulting from HIV, cancer therapy treatments, and other causes.
“Hopkins has a long tradition of excellence. There’s a depth of expertise here that’s just not possible in smaller places,” Casadevall says, explaining that his goal is to harness that expertise to “more rapidly develop immunotherapies for infectious diseases and cancer” in his role as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor.
He joined Johns Hopkins in 2015 from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he served as director of the Center for Immunological Sciences and chair of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology. In his teaching role, Casadevall is creating new ways of training future scientists. “My idea is to develop a program of putting the ‘Ph’ [philosophy] back into ‘PhD,'” he says.
“Right now, we’re good at training scientists in very narrow areas, but they have difficulty communicating across disciplines or with the public.” His aim is to provide broader education while still maintaining the ability to train focused scientists. “Hopkins reformed medical education 100 years ago, and now we can experiment with creating better ways of training scientists,” he says.
Casadevall has also been constructive shaping the nations approach to science, scientific misconduct, and promotion of women and underrepresented minorities. His research on scientific misconduct has focused on fraudulent results published in journals and the subsequent rates of retraction. His views on problems with the funding pipeline, the rise in retractions, dual use research, and more, are widely sought by premier journals and media outlets.
Casadevall received his bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from Queens College, City University of New York, and his M.S. and Ph.D in biochemistry from New York University. He then received his M.D. from New York University. Casadevall completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at the Bellevue Hospital Center, and a fellowship in infectious diseases at the Montefiore Medical Center of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Under the guidance of Matthew D. Scharff, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cell biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.