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Leading HIV Scientist to Join Yerkes as Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar

April 13, 2010

Guido Silvestri Named Chief of Yerkes Division of Microbiology and Immunology and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine for Emory School of Medicine

Media Contacts

Lisa Newbern, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, 404-727-7708, lisa.newbern@emory.edu; Kathleen Robichaud, Georgia Research Alliance, 404-332-9770, krobichaud@gra.org; Holly Korschun, Emory University, 404-727-3990, hkorsch@emory.edu

One of the nation’s leading investigators in the field of HIV/AIDS will join Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center and School of Medicine as a Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar. Guido Silvestri, M.D., will serve as chief of the Division of Microbiology and Immunology at Yerkes and hold a primary appointment in Emory’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Silvestri’s appointment is effective June 1. Currently, he serves as associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory and co-director of the HIV Pathogenesis Program in the University of Pennsylvania Center for AIDS Research. At the University of Pennsylvania, he developed a comprehensive and highly collaborative research program that spans nonhuman primates and humans. His National Institutes of Health funding is more than $2.5 million annually.

Silvestri will join more than 60 other GRA Eminent Scholars in Georgia and increase the number of scholars at Emory University to 11.

“Dr. Silvestri will deepen and broaden the already significant HIV/AIDS research and development capacity in Georgia,” said Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of GRA. “His commitment to collaboration and his leadership experience are key to making Georgia a frontrunner in unraveling the daunting puzzle of HIV/AIDS.”

During the past three years, Silvestri has carried out transformative studies pinpointing abnormal levels of inflammatory response to HIV as a key factor in disease progression. He has established himself among the world’s foremost investigators on viral diseases in non-human primates that mimic HIV disease in humans. His work also includes collaborative studies on HIV vaccine development with investigators in the Emory Vaccine Center and studies on the evolutionary relationships of SIV and HIV related to immune dysfunction in HIV-infected individuals.

In his new position at Emory, Silvestri will collaborate with colleagues to develop novel therapeutic approaches to HIV that modulate inflammatory immune responses, as well as vaccines for chronic disease. This research could lead to intellectual property and compounds that could bring increased economic development to Georgia.

“Guido Silvestri’s recruitment is a remarkable chance to bring back to Emory and Georgia a highly regarded scientist in a key area of HIV vaccine research,” said Stuart Zola, Ph.D., director, Yerkes National Primate Research Center. “Dr. Silvestri has proven his ability to establish productive research collaborations, and we are certain he will take full advantage of the outstanding opportunities colleagues at Yerkes, the Emory Vaccine Center, the Emory Center for AIDS Research and other Georgia research universities will offer.”

Born and educated in Italy, Silvestri was trained at the University of Ancona Medical School where he completed residencies in allergy, clinical immunology and internal medicine. Following postdoctoral fellowships at the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal and at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with Anthony Fauci, Silvestri completed his postdoctoral training and residency at Emory University.

In 2001, Silvestri joined Yerkes as an assistant professor of medicine (infectious diseases) and a member of the Emory School of Medicine faculty. He established a successful research program investigating why sooty mangabey monkeys, naturally infected by SIV – a simian relative of HIV – did not develop AIDS-like disease. His work on this topic revealed a new paradigm for immunodeficiency virus infection through the discovery that the lack of disease is not because of poor SIV replication, but rather reduced cell death and pathogenic effect in the face of virus replication.

During the past two years, Silvestri has authored or co-authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications, several of which are defining the state of the field. He has been, or will be, the plenary speaker within his area of research at all of the major international HIV/AIDS conferences.

He is an associate editor of the Journal of Immunology, a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology, BMC Infectious Diseases, The Journal of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology Reviews, and a former guest editor for Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS.

For eight decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National-Institutes of Health-funded national primate research centers, provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate quality animal care.

Within the fields of microbiology, immunology and neuroscience, the center’s research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases, such as AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease; treat cocaine addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; unlock the secrets of memory; determine behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.

A model public-private partnership between Georgia research universities, business and state government, the Georgia Research Alliance helps build Georgia’s technology-rich economy in three major ways: through attracting Eminent Scholars to Georgia’s research universities; through helping create centers of research excellence and through converting research into products, services and jobs that drive the economy. To learn more about GRA, visit www.gra.org.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children's Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, and Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.5 billion budget, 17,600 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,700 students and trainees, and a $5.7 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences: http://emoryhealthblog.com -
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