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Naval Academy Professor Contributes to Navy Medical Research

Posted on: October 18, 2012 08:00 EDT by Webmaster

Dr. Daniel Isaac, a physician, microbiologist and U.S. Naval Academy professor, is a guest scientist at the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) working with Capt. Stephen Savarino, head of the Enteric Diseases Department.

At the Naval Academy, Isaac teaches courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, genetics and neuroscience to both plebes and upper class midshipmen. At NMRC, he conducts research on the bacterium enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) supporting the NMRC team's efforts to develop an ETEC adhesin-based vaccine for traveler's diarrhea. Traveler's diarrhea is one of the most common non-battle related illnesses troops experience when they deploy and it is endemic in resource-limited countries.

Dr. Isaac looks for ways to attack the bacterium from the angle of how we can better understand the bacterium and how it is able to infect a host in the first place.

"Presumably, if we could learn more about that, we could better develop strategies to ultimately design vaccines to protect people," said Isaac.

"It's wonderful how he collaborates with NMRC, bringing a molecular and biochemical approach to the Enteric Diseases Department's vaccine efforts, as well as providing a potential bridge for educational rotations for midshipmen at NMRC," said Cmdr. David Blazes, director of Military Tropical Medicine at the Navy Medicine Professional Development Center.

Isaac sees the benefit of working at NMRC as being at the forefront of new knowledge, reading about the latest findings, and working on cutting-edge research.

"It's important for people working in academia to be involved in cutting edge research whenever possible," he said.

It was by chance Isaac learned of the E. coli vaccine program at NMRC when he spotted an advertisement seeking a scientist to work on projects related to pathogenic E. coli. What immediately struck Isaac as he read the job description was that the Navy places significant emphasis on basic medical research, which he was unaware of at the time.

"He knows a lot about stress pathways in bacteria, which is not the direct focus of studies we do, but they certainly have impact on some of our vaccine development efforts and I knew his involvement could have some collateral benefits for us," said Savarino.

While the mission of the Naval Academy is to educate midshipmen morally, mentally and physically, Isaac is also working towards the mission of NMRC.

"The research we do is certainly driven by our mission of developing vaccines and products for sailors and Marines to prevent disease, but it is perched on a foundation of basic studies that allows us to execute applied research effectively," said Savarino.

Isaac's goal is to solidify an avenue where his students can be exposed to a career in Navy medicine and basic scientific research. He would like to open up pipelines allowing more midshipmen to pursue research experiences at NMRC.

"This is a great project, and it's a project that can probably use a second set of hands. I hope to eventually bring one of my super-talented undergraduates along with me and along with my excellent colleagues, I'll mentor them in this exciting area of infectious disease research," said Isaac.

"Isaac's teaching prowess is well crafted because he keeps abreast of the research world. The benefits to students in his Naval Academy classes and the Navy in general are underscored by his receipt of the prestigious 2012 USNA Apgar Award for Excellence in Teaching," said Savarino.

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