SLU Researcher Receives $911,000 Veteran’s Administration Merit Award
Jacki Kornbluth, Ph.D., professor of pathology and molecular microbiology and immunology,
and a health science specialist at the St. Louis Veteran’s Administration (VA) Healthcare
System, has been awarded a four-year, $911,000 VA Merit Award for her work on anti-tumor
and anti-microbial immunity.
Kornbluth’s laboratory has been studying the role of Natural Killer Lytic-Associated
Molecule (NKLAM) in controlling the body’s immune response to a variety of foreign
agents, including tumor cells, viruses and bacteria.
They were the first to discover this gene in 1999 and their research has been ongoing.
“We generated mice that lack the gene for NKLAM in order to better understand how
NKLAM works in the body,” Kornbluth said.
This model has become essential in confirming the role of NKLAM in the function of
natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages in vivo. NKLAM-deficient mice show substantially
diminished NK and macrophage function. They also show significantly greater tumor
growth, tumor dissemination and metastasis.
They have recently found that NKLAM is essential for the resolution of Streptococcus
pneumoniae respiratory infections.
“Our research objectives and long term goals are to determine how NKLAM controls
innate immunity,” Kornbluth said. “Continued studies of NKLAM that are supported by
this VA Merit Award will help us develop new immune-based strategies for treatment
and perhaps, prevention, of cancer and infectious diseases.”
Kornbluth says development of a therapeutic strategy for delivering NKLAM to treat
cancer and infectious diseases is a major goal of their laboratory.
“Cancer is a disease that touches all of our lives,” Kornbluth said. “In addition,
with the emergence of new, drug-resistant strains of bacterial pathogens, such as Streptococcus
pneumoniae, it is even more important than ever to develop new strategies to treat
Kornbluth also serves as director of the Ph.D. graduate program in pathology and course
director for SLU’s graduate course in pathology.
She recently celebrated her 25th anniversary with the VA and this is her fifth consecutive
VA Merit Award. Kornbluth will also receive the 2017 Distinguished Investigator of
the Year Award from the VA St. Louis Health Care System in April.