2023 SCEP Speakers
Boris Striepen, PhD.
"The Biology of Parasite Sex"
Boris grew up in the harbor neighborhood of Ruhrort, at the confluence of the rivers Ruhr and Rhein, an industrial area of Germany, then dominated by coal and steel. He studied biology at the universities of Bonn and Marburg, and conducted undergrad research on liver flukes in Bonn, and trypanosomes in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. Boris earned a PhD for work on parasite biochemistry with Ralph Schwarz, was a postdoc with David Roos, studying parasite cell biology, and started his own laboratory at the University of Georgia in 2000. In 2017 he moved to the University of Pennsylvania. Boris studies the cell and molecular biology of apicomplexan parasites. His current research focus is the parasite Cryptosporidium, a leading global cause of severe diarrhea and mortality in young children. His lab pioneered molecular genetics and mouse models for this important infection and leads a range of interdisciplinary efforts to understand fundamental parasite biology, and to advance translation towards drugs and vaccines. Boris is also engaged in education and training. He taught undergraduate and graduate classes, directed NIH training grant programs in parasitology, served as faculty and director of the Biology of Parasitism summer research course at the MBL for 20 years, and he hosts the online Global Parasitology Seminar Series. Boris is married to a social worker with remarkable patience for scientists, and has three children, two are research scientists – all are awesome.
The Striepen lab studies the cell and molecular biology of parasites and how they interact with their mammalian host.
In recent years the Striepen lab has focused on the apicomplexan Cryptosporidium, a distant cousin to the parasite that cause malaria. Cryptosporidium is an important pathogen for which neither prophylaxis nor effective treatment are available. Cryptosporidium was first recognized in the 1980s as an AIDS-defining opportunistic infection, however, immunocompetent individuals are susceptible, and today Cryptosporidium accounts for 50% of all U.S. waterborne disease outbreaks.
Most recently, Cryptosporidium was identified as a leading cause of diarrheal disease and death in infants. Beyond acute disease, asymptomatic cryptosporidiosis causes stunting and environmental enteropathy with lasting impact on the development and health of children. Malnutrition and cryptosporidiosis are intimately linked. Cryptosporidium has long been difficult to study, but a series of recent advances has made the organism and the disease tractable. We developed genetic manipulation of the parasite and mouse infection models which has opened this important pathogen to sophisticated mechanistic studies.
Currently, the Striepen lab research is exploring three areas of Cryptosporidium biology: 1) how does the parasite invade and manipulate the intestinal epithelial cells in which it develops, 2) how does the sexual part of the parasite’s lifecycle unfold and 3) how does the host immune system recognize and restrict Cryptosporidium infection?
Trainees in the lab use a broad range of modern approaches including single cell sequencing, super-resolution and live-cell microscopy, genetic engineering, flow cytometry, cryo-electron tomography and a variety of cell, organoid and animal model systems.
Veronica Jimenez, PhD.
California State University, Fullerton
"Touchy-feely parasites: mechanosensation in Trypanosomes"
Dr. Jimenez is an Associate Professor in the Biological Science Department at California State University Fullerton, CA. She holds a B.S. and Pharmacy degree and M.S. in Biochemistry from the University Juan Agustin Maza and obtained her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Chile. Her doctoral work was focused on the effect of natural products as potential therapeutics against parasites. Then, she discovered the power of electrophysiological studies and started exploring the physiological role of ion channels in Trypanosoma cruzi. In 2007, she became a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, University of Georgia, under the mentorship of Dr. Roberto Docampo. In 2013 she joined the Biological Science Department at CalState Fullerton where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. Since 2023, Dr. Jimenez is the coordinator of the URISE at CalState Fullerton training program, dedicated to increase preparedness and diversity in the Biomedical research fields.
The Jimenez lab seeks to exploit the functional and structural differences between ion channels from the parasites and the ones present in mammalian cells for the identification of new therapeutic targets against protozoan pathogens.