Welcome to the website of the Oklahoma Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunity. This award from NIH establishes a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. 

The most recent data shows there were 35,873 annual cases of reportable infectious diseases in Oklahoma and this does not include thousands of other hospital-associated and non-reportable infectious diseases in the state. As Primary Investigator of the Oklahoma Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunity (OCMP&I), Dr. Jimmy Ballard recognized the critical need to advance research and develop a better understanding of infectious microbes and the host immune system. The goal of the OCMP&I Phase-1 COBRE is to provide the mentoring, resources, and infrastructure needed in Oklahoma to foster outstanding Junior Investigators pursuing research in these fields. The OCMP&I COBRE includes 17 scientists engaged in microbial pathogenesis and immunity research at research-intensive institutions in Oklahoma and this network will be expanded during the Phast-1 period as the center takes form and grows. Among these 17 scientists are five outstanding and promising Junior Investigators who study fungal pathogenesis, inflammation, regulation of biofilms, and necrotizing enterocolitis. The OCMP&I and its consortium of successful senior researcher scientists will provide the intellectual input and expertise to mentor each Junior Investigator to research independence. In addition to outstanding mentoring, the OCMP&I COBRE will provide the funding and research core support needed for Junior Investigators to succeed and become long-term contributors to the microbial pathogenesis and immunity research  community in Oklahoma.

Intertwined with the Junior Investigator support, will be the OCMP&I COBRE's mission to address gaps in infrastructure and resources that have limited the opportunities for cutting-edge research in our state. To achieve these objectives, we will establish a thematic center to enhance research, mentoring and infrastructure support for microbial pathogenesis and immunity. Collectively, this five-year Phase-1 COBRE program will establish the first center of research excellence in Oklahoma focused on microbial pathogenesis and immunity and become the central entity that accelerates research by all investigators in these fields and provides a highly-supportive path to independence for our most promising Junior Investigators.


Dr. Jimmy Ballard has studied Gram-positive pathogens for the past 24 years with a focus on Clostridium difficileBacillus anthracis and the toxins they produce. In particular, his lab has a long-standing interest in understanding how bacterial toxins cripple host immune responses and avoid immune recognition during infection. 

Through his various leadership roles with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center he has worked with like-minded campus leaders to do everything possible to enhance research on campus. Working with others to provide research opportunities that reach far beyond his own department is one of the most gratifying parts of his career. 

It is his passion for mentoring Junior Investigators, bringing groups of scientists together, and working collectively to improve research that has a meaningful impact on human health that has been the driving force behind his efforts to establish and lead the OCMP&I COBRE program.


External Advisory Committee

We would like to thank our EAC, without whose input we would not be successful.

Tammy Kielian, Ph.D.

University of Nebraska Medical Center, Department of Pathology and Microbiology

Karl Klose, Ph.D.

University of Texas at San Antonio, Department of Biology

Mairi Noverr, Ph.D.

Tulane University, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Michael Starnbach, Ph.D.

Harvard University, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Vincent Young, M.D., Ph.D.

University of Michigan, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Junior Investigators

Matthew Cabeen, Ph.D.

Project Title: Characterization of novel biofilm regulators in P. aeruginosa

Mentors:  Tyrell Conway, Ph.D. & Rodney Tweten, Ph.D.


Hala Chaaban, M.D. 

Project Title: Novel Strategies for Prevention of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Mentors: Florea Lupu, Ph.D. & Dean Myers, Ph.D.


Kevin Fuller, Ph.D. 

Project Title: Elucidating pathways that regulate fungal keratitis pathogenesis

Mentors: Daniel Carr, Ph.D. & William Hildebrand, Ph.D.


Karen Wozniak, Ph. D. 

Project Title: Interaction of Human Pulmonary Macrophage and Dendritic Cell Subsets with Cryptococcus neoformans

Mentors: Michelle Callegan, Ph.D. & Jordan Metcalf, M.D.


Lauren Zenewicz, Ph.D. 

Project Title: Regulation of C. Difficile infection by the cytokine interleukin-22 (IL-22)

Mentors: Madeleine Cunningham, Ph.D. & Mark Lang, Ph.D.