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John Boothroyd, Ph.D., is the Burt and Marion Avery Professor of Immunology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine where he studies the pathogenesis of parasitic infections, most notably Toxoplasma gondii. In addition to his research, he is also heavily committed to undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training, including trainee professional development.Dr. Boothroyd received his undergraduate degree in Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and his PhD in Molecular Biology from Edinburgh University in Scotland. He worked as a scientist in the Immunochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at Wellcome Research Laboratories, UK, before joining the Stanford faculty in 1982 as a member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He was Department Chair from 1999-2002 and served as Senior Associate Dean for Research and Training in the School of Medicine from 2002-2005. Currently, in addition to his regular faculty role, Dr. Boothroyd serves as Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs for the University. Dr. Boothroyd has received various awards including being named a Burroughs Wellcome Scholar in Molecular Parasitology in 1986 and an Ellison Medical Foundation Scholar in Global Infectious Diseases in 2002. In 2008 he received the Leuckart Medal from the German Society for Parasitology and in 2016 he was elected to membership in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. All of these awards reflect the creativity and hard work of the many staff, students and post-docs who have worked with him, over 30 of whom are now in independent faculty positions.Dr. Boothroyd’s research interests have spanned from viruses such as bacteriophage T7 and Foot and Mouth Disease Virus through to protozoan parasites such as Trypanosoma brucei, the cause of African sleeping sickness, and Toxoplasma gondii, a serious pathogen in newborns and individuals who are immunocompromised. Currently, his lab is focused on the interaction between the animal host and Toxoplasma. Together with their collaborators, the lab asks: (1) how does Toxoplasma invade and co-opt almost any cell type from almost any animal; (2) once in, how does it persist in its hosts for their entire lifetime; and 3) how do the polymorphic “effectors” that Toxoplasma injects into a host cell produce different disease outcomes.
Studies on the cell and molecular biology of parasitic protozoa are critically important for two reasons; first, these organisms are major pathogens of humans and anaimals and, second, they have proven to be a source of some remarkable phenomena that have challenged much of the dogma thought to be universal in eukaryotic biology. We have been studying two of these single-celled eukaryotes, Trypanosoma brucei and Toxoplasma gondii. Each has its own features that make it interesting to the scientist and both are major pathogens, trypanosomes being the cause of sleeping sickness in Africa and Toxoplasma being a major opporunistic pathogen of AIDS patients. As of, 1998, however, we have focused our entire effort on Toxoplasma because of its growing importance and our results developing this system for modern genetic analysis (we now have a full genetic "toolbox" for this intracellular parasite including a genetic map, efficient genetic transformation and gene knock-out).The major areas where the lab is currently working are:(i) Intracellular parasitism: how does this parasite attach, invade and reproduce within virtually any nucleated cell.(ii) Protein trafficking; how are proteins destined for novel secretory organelles specifically targeted and, ultimately, injected into the host cell during invasion?(iii) Developmental biology; what genes are crucial for asexual development from the actively dividing to the latent form of the parasite and what are the cis- and trans-elements that control that expression.(iv) Host-pathogen interaction: what changes occur in the host cell in response to infection? (v) Pathogenesis: what properties make certain strains more virulent than others?