Robert A. Cramer, Jr, PhD
My interest in fungal pathogenesis began as a Masters student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, studying the Fusarium Wilt pathogen of common bean, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. phaseoli. During my MS studies, we characterized the F. oxysporum population in the Central High Plains (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska) that infect common bean and sugarbeets. My studies led me to question the underlying genetic differences between non-pathogenic and pathogenic fungi. I pursued my interests in the molecular genetics of fungal pathogenesis for my Ph.D. in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Lawrence. During my Ph.D. studies, we developed molecular and functional genomic tools for the study of the necrotrophic Brassica pathogen Alternaria brassicicola and identified potential virulence factors.
After completion of my dissertation, I began studies on the human fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus, at Duke University Medical Center with Dr. John Perfect and Dr. William Steinbach. Currently, we are interested in how this normally benign fungus is capable of causing disease in immunocompromised patients. We are focusing our efforts on elucidating the molecular mechanisms of fungal growth in the mammalian lung and how this influences innate immune responses. We are particularly interested in the role of hypoxia, both from the perspective of the fungus and the host. Thus, our long term goal is to better understand the mechanisms of hypoxia responses in both the pathogen and host in order to develop new therapeutic options to improve invasive aspergillosis patient outcomes. We are pursuing translational lines of inquiry related to the hypothesis that manipulation of in vivo oxygen levels at sites of fungal infection can improve therapeutic outcomes from these often lethal infections.