UTSA Discover
UTSA Discover

2007 VOL.1, NO 1

The Road to Excellence
First Edition
Feature Stories
A Deadly Foe

Look Who's Talking—
In Two Languages

Tracking Transportation

Destroying to Protect

After the Dissertation
About Us

A Deadly Foe

Research infrastructure
One of the reasons UTSA is able to conduct this type of research is an assortment of new facilities that did not exist three years ago. The 227,000-square-foot Biotechnology, Sciences and Engineering (BSE) Building on the 1604 Campus, which opened February 2006, is UTSA’s biggest building and one of the largest research facilities in the UT System.

On the third floor of the BSE is Klose’s biosafety level 2 laboratory used for nonvirulent, but high-security, research. He and Arulanandam also share a 900-square-foot BSL-3 lab to study the highly infectious forms of tularemia, work that requires the researchers to use respirators and wear special head-to-toe suits made of an impervious material.

“In the BSL-3 lab,” Klose says, “all the work is performed in biosafety cabinets, and there are redundant measures in place so there is no possibility that anyone becomes infected.” Anyone working in the labs has to have FBI clearance and undergo safety training. The labs are under high-level surveillance by the FBI and the CDC, as well as by UTSA’s safety office and police department.

The $10.6 million, 22,000-square-foot Margaret Batts Tobin Laboratory Building, which opened in 2005 on the 1604 Campus, houses a second BSL-3 lab that Teale is using for her tularemia research. In addition to the joint project with Klose and Arulanandam, she is principal investigator on a separate National Institutes of Health research program to study the pathogenesis of tularemia in the elderly. It is well known among researchers and health care personnel that those aged 65 and older have higher death rates from severe respiratory infections. Teale’s research is designed to determine whether older people are more susceptible to tularemia. “This is critical so that treatments can be developed that also work for people with weaker immune systems, such as the elderly or persons whose immune systems have been compromised,” Teale explains.

Student research
In addition to the scientists, two Ph.D. graduate students are working on the tularemia projects. They receive the same safety training and must pass the security training, Klose says.

In fall 2005, when Stephen Rodriguez first entered the cell and molecular biology Ph.D. program, he conducted a small project in Klose’s lab working with novicida, a form of tularemia harmless to humans. Now, he is conducting his Ph.D. thesis research using the more virulent form of the bacteria.

Before selecting UTSA for his graduate work, Rodriguez looked into programs at several universities. “I wanted to see which programs had a sense of purpose,” he explains. “With some of them I didn’t see it, but with Dr. Klose, I got that feeling of purpose right up front.”

Another student involved in the research is Jeff Barker. He is working on a doctorate in microbiology at UTHSCSA, but followed Klose to work in the UTSA lab when the professor came to the university in 2004. Like Klose, Barker is studying which genes make tularemia so deadly. “We have the potential for creating a vaccine that could be approved by the [Food and Drug Administration] and used by the military,” Barker says. “It is incredible to actually see results and, as a graduate student, to actually see that a product may come from your work.”

Lab work, Barker says, is the reason he got into the field. “I get to discover something new each day that no one else knows. I get to come up with new ideas to discover what makes these things tick.”

Klose likes mentoring his graduate students almost as much as he enjoys the research. There’s the constant thrill of discovery, he says, and the idea that he’s training the scientists of tomorrow.

“There is a critical need for people trained in biodefense in order to protect the American public,” Klose says. “New infectious diseases are constantly popping up. For example, five years ago, many people had never heard of anthrax, West Nile virus or SARS. We’re training the next generation of scientists who can respond to new threats and create the treatments and cures for future generations.”


Karl Klose
Professor of microbiology
Director of UTSA’s South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases

Karl Klose has worked extensively with Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes cholera, and is now researching Francisella tularensis, which causes tularemia.

Klose received bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry and German literature from the University of California at San Diego, a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley and postdoctoral training in microbiology at Harvard Medical School.

He moved to UTSA in 2004 from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He continues to serve as an adjunct professor at the health science center and as an associate adjunct scientist at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research.

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