A McMaster University expert in women's reproductive health has been named the scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Infection and Immunity.

Charu Kaushic was formally announced as the new scientific director today. The position begins July 1, 2018.

Kaushic is a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University, where she is also the director of the university's Biosafety Level 3 Lab, which supports researchers working on highly infectious human pathogens.

She is a mucosal immunologist by training and her program of research is focused on women's susceptibility and immune response to HIV and the herpes virus, with the goal of developing new ways to protect women from infections using vaccines and immunotherapies.

"I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to represent and serve the infection and immunity research community," said Kaushic.

"We will work collaboratively with our partners to address key health issues facing Canadians, such as chronic inflammatory conditions, global health issues of TB and HIV, and emerging threats such as antimicrobial resistance and pandemic flu. I also plan to promote STEM careers and leadership roles to young women."

The CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity supports research and helps to build research capacity in the areas of infectious disease and the body's immune system. The institute is at the forefront of research into antimicrobial resistance, HIV, hepatitis C, Lyme disease, the microbiome, and organ transplantation.

It is also equipped to mobilize a rapid research response to emerging infectious diseases, as it has done with the Ebola and Zika viruses.

The institute will be located at McMaster for the next four years, with the prospective of an additional four-year renewal. Its office will be located on the fourth floor of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery.

This is the first time a CIHR institute will be based at McMaster.

"We are delighted with Dr. Kaushic's well-deserved appointment and pleased to host the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity here at our university," said McMaster President Patrick Deane. "This institute further enhances McMaster's reputation as a centre of ground-breaking and innovative infectious disease research."

As scientific director, Kaushic will work with her community to identify research priorities, develop funding opportunities, build partnerships, and translate research evidence into policy and practice to improve the health of Canadians and people around the world. As a member of CIHR's leadership team, she will participate in setting and implementing the organization's strategic direction.

"As the new scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity, Dr. Charu Kaushic will help lead efforts to tackle some of the most pressing health issues of the day, including HIV, antimicrobial resistance, and vector-borne diseases," said Roderick McInnes, acting president of CIHR. "I know that the research community will be in excellent hands with the appointment of Dr. Kaushic, who brings to the position an impressive 15-year track record in research into immunology, HIV, and women's reproductive health."

Kaushic is the past recipient of a CIHR New Investigator Award, and is currently the principal investigator on four CIHR grants, including an HIV mucosal team grant and a grant on innovative biomedical and clinical HIV/AIDS research. She also holds an Applied HIV Research Chair Award from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network.

Read her Brighter World profile piece here.

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