About the Center

California’s large population and location on the Pacific Rim make it a hub for commerce and travel, with some of the busiest North American airports, seaports, and highways. California also includes diverse ecological landscapes ranging from cool temperate forests to dry, hot deserts, making the state highly susceptible to invasive vectors, exotic pathogens such as Zika virus, and several endemic pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks. The Pacific Southwest Regional Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases addresses these urgent public health challenges. UC Davis and UC Riverside will combine cutting-edge research in surveillance, vector control, genetics, epidemiology, and sustainable, effective insecticide development to generate knowledge and technology to prevent the spread of vector-borne diseases and train a diverse “community of practice” including public health professionals and entomology experts responsive to the needs of the broader US Southwest population.

Research

Conduct applied research to develop and validate effective prevention and control tools and methods to anticipate and respond to disease outbreaks.

Training

Train vector biologists, entomologists, and physicians in the knowledge and skills required to address vector-borne disease concerns.

Collaboration

Strengthen and expand already effective collaboration between researchers and public health organizations for surveillance, prevention, and response.

Meet Our Team

Christopher M. Barker

Co-Director, UC Davis

The Barker lab studies the factors that cause outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses. They work closely with partners in public health and mosquito control on research to inform policy for disease prevention. The Barker lab conducts centralized diagnostic testing for arboviruses and houses web-based data platforms for mosquito and arbovirus surveillance. Current research projects focus on the biology of invasive mosquitoes, the epidemiology of Zika, dengue, and West Nile viruses, and better quantitative methods for evaluating surveillance and control.

William Walton

William Walton

Co-Director, UC Riverside

The Walton lab studies the ecology and control of mosquitoes inhabiting constructed treatment wetlands, microbiomes of mosquitoes and their environment, biorational control strategies for mosquito vectors inhabiting underground storm drain systems, use of native larvivorous fishes for mosquito control and the characterization of semiochemicals that reduce egg laying by mosquito vectors.

Peter Atkinson

Project Lead

The Atkinson lab is focused on developing new genetic technologies which enable the safe and sustainable control of insect pests of human health and agricultural importance. We work on gene and enhancer trapping-based technologies using transposable elements and also use CRISPR/Cas-based approaches in a range of insect pest species.

Ring Cardé

Project Lead

A principal interest of the Cardé lab is defining the navigational mechanisms that female Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes use to locate prospective hosts.  We use 3-D video tracking to record flight tracks and landing in wind tunnels and vary the odor, visual and heat cues to understand how these stimuli are integrated for orientation.

Lark Coffey

Project Lead

The Coffey laboratory studies the evolution and transmission dynamics of mosquito-borne viruses including chikungunya, Zika, West Nile, and St. Louis encephalitis that are significant causes of human disease with no licensed human vaccines or treatments beyond supportive care. They are currently developing cheap and convenient improvements to surveillance in mosquitoes, approaches to increase safety of candidate live-attenuated chikungunya virus vaccines, and a primate model of human Zika virus in pregnancy.

Anton Cornel

Project Lead

The Cornel lab is focused on population genetics and insecticide resistance of major vectors of human malaria in Africa and Brazil in collaboration with Gregory Lanzaro and Yoosook Lee. Other efforts are underway to study inter-epizootic zoonotic diseases of wildlife in South Africa, with a particular focus on competence, behavior, and systematics of arbovirus vectors. In addition, work on avian malaria hosts and vectors has revealed co-infecting parasite species and lineages that are likely to affect the diversity of parasite communities in time and space.

Brian Federici

Project Lead

The Federici lab engineers new larvicidal bacteria active against all major genera of vector mosquitoes and black flies. We focus on recombining genes from Bacillus thuringiensis and Lysinibacillus sphaericus, engineering these for high levels of mosquitocidal protein synthesis. Current recombinants being considered for commercial development are ten-fold more potent than wild type strains in existing commercial products used against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes. These recombinants have all been engineered to avoid resistance in mosquito populations.

Janet Foley

Project Lead

The Foley lab works on the ecology of vector-borne diseases with emphases on acarids (mites and ticks). We study how climate, fire, and other human-caused changes to environments affect these parasites and how this translates to changes in risk for people and other animals.

Jay Gan

Project Lead

The Gan lab is focused on understanding movement, transformation and risks of man-made chemicals, including pesticides, in the environment, and developing strategies to mitigate adverse effects on non-target organisms and human health. Recent projects include evaluation of offsite movement of urban-use insecticides such as pyrethroids and fipronil and their toxicity to aquatic species, and environmental and human health risks of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals, flame retardants and plasticizers.

Sarjeet Gill

Project Lead

The Gill lab has three principal research areas all utilizing a cellular and molecular approach to elucidate the mechanisms of toxicity and cell membrane transport. One research focus is to elucidate the mode of action of toxins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis and Clostridium bifermantans. The research aims to gain a molecular understanding of the characteristics of these toxins and how they interact with cellular targets, which result in a disruption of ion regulation and lethality.

Rong Hai

Project Lead

The Hai lab is focused on the molecular characterization of emerging negative strand RNA viruses and discovering novel viral virulence signatures and molecular viral-host interactions. We combine molecular, biochemical, and imaging techniques to understand how viruses replicate and to explore virus-host interactions. We also have interests, driven by our research goals, in developing methods for manipulating genomes of other emerging viruses.

Eamonn Keogh

Project Lead

The Keogh lab studies machine learning and information retrieval, and techniques for solving similarity and indexing problems in time-series datasets. The Keogh lab applies these techniques to design “smart traps” for the collection and identification of mosquito vectors and the pathogens that they carry.

Greg Lanzaro

Project Lead

Greg Lanzaro directs the Vector Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at UC Davis, which deals with research and training in the areas of population & molecular genetics, genomics and bioinformatics of insect vectors of human and animal disease. They have developed a program aimed at expanding knowledge that may be applied to improving control of vectorborne diseases and that addresses problems of interest in the field of evolutionary genetics. The VGL is a partnership with Dr. Yoosook Lee and Dr. Anthony Cornel.

Yoosook Lee

Project Lead

Yoosook Lee conducts research in the Vector Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at UC Davis. She focuses on population & molecular genetics, genomics and bioinformatics of insect vectors of human and animal disease. The VGL has developed a program aimed at expanding knowledge that may be applied to improving control of vectorborne diseases and that addresses problems of interest in the field of evolutionary genetics.

Karine Le Roch

Project Lead

The overall goal of the research in the Le Roch lab is to examine new therapeutic strategies against Apicomplexan parasites. We are particularly interested by understanding how malaria parasites direct their developmental programs over the course of their infectious cycle in both of their hosts: human and Anopheles mosquitoes. Using complementary molecular, cellular and systems biology approaches, we explore the connection between chromatin structure and the parasite transcriptome.

Jun Li

Project Lead

The Li lab is focused on the development of new statistical methods in the areas of ecological statistics, statistical process control and nonparametric multivariate statistics. In this project, we will use statistical models to enhance our understanding of the relationship of vectors, the pathogens that they transmit and the environment.