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UC San Diego Physician-Scientist Elected to National Academy of Medicine

An expert in molecular microbiology and the innate immune system, Victor Nizet has focused his career upon defining and remedying the rising crisis of multidrug-resistant microbes

Victor Nizet, MD
Victor Nizet, MD, is a Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacy at UC San Diego, where he also serves as the Vice Chair for Basic Research in the Department of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Host-Microbe Systems and Therapeutics, both in the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

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Victor Nizet, MD, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Pharmacy at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

National Academy of Medicine (NAM) membership is considered among the highest honors that can be accorded in the fields of health and medicine. New members are elected by current members through a process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.

In officially announcing Nizet’s election, NAM credited Nizet "for discovering numerous hallmark virulence mechanisms of bacterial pathogens and key roles of antimicrobial peptides, neutrophils and macrophages in innate immunity. His translational research has yielded innovative approaches to counteract the threats of antibiotic resistance and sepsis."

“This latest honor is no surprise and extremely well deserved,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Victor has long been a tireless and innovative advocate for better understanding the unseen, ever-changing pathogens that threaten us, despite the advances of modern medicine. His work across campus and disciplines has measurably advanced the cause and helped make UC San Diego a leader in antimicrobial research and treatment.”

Antimicrobial resistance is the evolving ability of pathogens, such as bacteria and fungi, to develop the ability to elude or defeat drugs designed to kill them. It is a growing global public health threat, killing at least 1.27 million people worldwide and associated with nearly 5 million deaths in 2019 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In the United States, more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur each year, with more than 35,000 people dying as a result.

Throughout his career, Nizet has been actively involved in research investigating both the phenomenon of antimicrobial resistance and how to therapeutically overcome it. For example:

  • Working with colleagues at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering to develop macrophage “nanosponges” that safely absorb and remove molecules from the bloodstream that are known to trigger sepsis, a life-threatening immune response to an infection.
  • Published findings that repurposed heart and flu drugs may help combat sepsis caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, a common and often drug-resistant microbe that results in nearly 120,000 bloodstream infections annually in the U.S. and 20,000 associated deaths. 
  • A novel effort to develop a universal vaccine for Group A Streptococcus (GAS), the bacteria that results in more than 600 million cases worldwide each year of pharyngitis (strep throat). Currently, there is no safe, efficacious commercial vaccine for GAS. The vaccine program is a partnership of private, academic and government institutions. 

A native of Santa Barbara, California and graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, Nizet completed medical school at Stanford University, residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Harvard University/Boston Children's Hospital and pediatric infectious diseases fellowship training at Seattle Children's Hospital. 

He has authored more than 510 peer-reviewed publications and has collaborated with many academic labs and biotechnology interests to explore new antibiotics, vaccines and immune-based therapies against drug-resistant pathogens or sepsis. 

He is an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His research contributions have been recognized with the Society for Pediatric Research E. Mead Johnson Award for Excellence in Research in Pediatrics and the American Society for Microbiology DC White Award for Interdisciplinary Research and Mentoring. 

At UC San Diego, he has been the recipient of the Chancellor's Associate Award for Excellence in Research in Science and Engineering, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Scholar Mentorship and the inaugural Health Sciences Award for Excellence in Junior Faculty Mentoring. 

Thirty of Nizet's former postdoctoral fellows or graduate students have moved to full-time academic faculty positions at universities or research institutes in the U.S and internationally. A similar number have found successful careers in the biopharmaceutical industry, education, clinical medicine or science communications.

About the National Academy of Medicine
Established originally as the Institute of Medicine in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine, and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors. The National Academy of Medicine works alongside the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding of STEMM. With their election, National Academy of Medicine members make a commitment to volunteer their service in National Academies activities.

"Victor has long been a tireless and innovative advocate for better understanding the unseen, ever-changing pathogens that threaten us, despite the advances of modern medicine. His work across campus and disciplines has measurably advanced the cause and helped make UC San Diego a leader in antimicrobial research and treatment."
Pradeep K. Khosla, UC San Diego Chancellor
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