Distinguished Research Professor 2016
Roberto Docampo, professor of cellular biology and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, is renowned for his work on Chagas disease and sleeping sickness, potentially fatal parasitic infections that have ravaged populations in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively. He is credited with discovering a new organelle inside the disease-causing trypanosome parasites that he and his colleagues call the acidocalcisome, which is responsible for numerous critical cell functions required for parasite growth and replication. Since acidocalcisomes from less complex organisms, such as bacteria and trypanosomes, possess enzymes absent in mammalian cells, the organelles are excellent targets for the chemotherapy of a number of neglected and tropical diseases. But Docampo’s discoveries have applications beyond the treatment of infectious diseases; he found that human organelles similar to the acidocalcisome play an important role in blood clotting and inflammation, which may lead to new therapies for uncontrollable bleeding, thrombosis and immune diseases.