Alistair J. Ramsay, PhD

Department Head and Professor
Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology

1901 Perdido Street, Room 6206A
New Orleans, LA 70112


BS Physiology - 1978
The University of Otago, New Zealand

BS Microbiology - 1979
The University of Otago, New Zealand

PhD Microbiology - 1986
The University of Otago, New Zealand


My broad research interests concern the immunobiology of infections by viruses and other intracellular parasites, mucosal immune regulation, and immune regulation of allergic responses. The ultimate aim is to develop improved vaccines against a variety of currently intractable diseases (eg. HIV/AIDS, TB, asthma) that have presented major difficulties for conventional approaches to vaccination.

A particular focus has been HIV immunobiology and vaccine development. We have recently developed a "prime-boost" vaccination strategy that generates sustained, high-level cell-mediated immune responses against encoded HIV antigens in both mice and macaque monkeys. Successful preclinical studies have led to the initiation of clinical trials of our vaccines beginning in 2003-04.

The outstanding potential of prime-boost vaccination has encouraged us to establish projects to develop effective vaccines against a variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, Toxoplasmosis, asthma, and safer smallpox vaccines.

Finally, a key area of our work is a fundamental program of research into vaccine immunology, particularly immune mechanisms underlying the generation of highly effective T cell responses that we see following prime-boost vaccination. Our ultimate aim is to optimize vaccines against individual pathogens/diseases.

Research Interests

Research interests of the Ramsay lab are centered on (i) immune biology of infections by intracellular pathogens, particularly via mucosal tissues, and (ii) pulmonary infection by the opportunistic pathogen Pneumocystis, and are supported by NIH funding.  We are also interested in the development of novel, recombinant vectors that can effectively deliver key vaccine immunogens to different sites and tissues in the body.  Our ultimate goal is to develop improved vaccines, particularly those that stimulate protective immune responses at mucosal sites of infection, against a variety of currently intractable diseases that have presented major difficulties for conventional approaches to immunization.  We are also working to gain a clearer understanding of the mechanisms of action of these vaccines and of underlying host:pathogen interactions.  A primary focus of the lab at present is understanding host:pathogen interactions in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, using immune assays, genomics and bioinformatics.  Genome-wide transcriptional studies in the lab have begun to reveal novel host cell signaling pathways that could ultimately be involved in defense against TB.  We are also interested in finding improved TB immunization strategies.  Our approach is based largely on the development and evaluation of recombinant BCG and viral vectors engineered for enhanced immunogenicity, including the identification of new, immunogenic vaccine targets in M. tuberculosis using immune genomics and bioinformatics.  Identification of host gene expression ‘signatures’ that correlate with vaccine efficacy has the potential to accelerate the development of novel protective vaccines against TB and other currently intractable infectious diseases.



Selected Publications

For a complete list of publications, click here.