[November 9, 2015; Philadelphia, PA] – Dr. Christopher Hunter, BSc, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, has been named the inaugural Mindy Halikman Heyer President’s Distinguished Professor. Established by Penn alumni Mindy and Andrew Heyer, the $3 million endowment will advance Hunter’s research on how the immune system protects animals and humans from infectious disease.
“It’s professors like Dr. Hunter who make Penn Vet truly excellent,” said Heyer, who also serves as Chair of Penn Vet’s Board of Overseers. “It is an honor to support him and his important work, which in turn, helps to enhance the preeminence of both the School and the University.”
The Hunter laboratory at Penn Vet aims to better understand the immune response to infections and the balance between protective and pathological immunity. In particular, Hunter studies the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, a pathogen that affects animals and humans and can cause severe disease in newborns, infants, and patients with immune deficiencies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this foodborne parasite infects more than 60 million people in the U.S. and approximately one-third of the world’s population.
By studying the role of the immune system to control infectious disease, Hunter’s research is relevant to many inflammatory processes, including cancer, asthma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis. The broad impact of his research is illustrated by his roles as a Senior Investigator for the American Asthma Foundation and as a Scientific Founder and member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Surface Oncology, a Cambridge, MA-based company focused on cancer immunotherapies.
“As Chair of the Department of Pathobiology, Dr. Hunter is an integral member of the Penn Vet faculty and an insightful contributor to the Dean’s Council,” said Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, PhD, the Gilbert S. Kahn Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “His groundbreaking research has important implications for both animal and human health, and helps to distinguish Penn Vet as one of the world’s finest institutions. We are incredibly grateful to Mindy and Andy for their continued support of the School. They are exemplary Penn citizens and tireless advocates for Penn Vet.”
“I am truly honored to be named the inaugural Heyer Professor and am tremendously thankful for the support of Mindy and Andy,” said Hunter, who serves as Chair of the Department of Pathobiology and Director of the Center for Host-Microbial Interactions at Penn Vet. “This endowment will enable me to pursue high-risk, high-impact research at one of the nation’s great biomedical research and teaching centers, where I have the ability to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty and students on a campus with unprecedented access to world-class facilities.”
Hunter was awarded his BSc in Zoology and a PhD in Parasite Biochemistry from the University of Glasgow, and was a post-doctoral fellow at Glasgow University School of Veterinary Medicine. He completed his post-doctoral training at Stanford University before joining Penn Vet in 1996. Since then, Hunter has supervised more than 50 students, many of whom now hold faculty positions at Penn and other renowned schools around the world.
Hunter is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is the recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Young Investigator Award and the Cormie Prize in Neurology, and was selected as an Irvington Research Scholar. He is the author of more than 250 publications and his work has been cited nearly 20,000 times.
About Endowed Professorships at Penn
Endowed professorships maximize Penn’s momentum in recruiting and retaining the best and brightest faculty. As part of University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann’s initiative to create up to 50 endowed professorships by 2018, this Distinguished Professorship enables Penn Vet to advance the strategic priorities of the Penn Compact 2020.