Rawls and Wang elected to the American Academy of Microbiology

Monday, February 22, 2021
John Franklin Rawls, PhD, and Linfa Wang, PhD

John Franklin Rawls, PhD, and Linfa Wang, PhD

Duke scientists John Franklin Rawls, PhD, and Linfa Wang, PhD, are among 65 new fellows elected to the American Academy of Microbiology, an honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology. Fellows are elected annually through a highly selective peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. 

There are over 2,500 fellows in the Academy representing all subspecialties of the microbial sciences and involved in basic and applied research, teaching, public health, industry, and government service. The Class of 2021 is a diverse class and represents fellows from 11 different countries, including Australia, Canada, China (Mainland), France, Ireland, Sweden, Slovenia, Mexico, and Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Rawls, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the School of Medicine and leader of the Duke Microbiome Center, studies how host-microbiome interactions in the intestine regulate digestion, inflammation, and energy balance. By comparing zebrafish, mouse, and humans, his lab has uncovered conserved mechanisms of host-microbiome communication. His recent work showed that specialized sensory cells in the intestine called enteroendocrine cells perceive specific microbial products and communicate that information to the nervous system and the brain.

“This is a richly deserved honor in recognition of John’s pioneering studies developing the zebra fish as a model for studies of the microbiome,” said Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. “This honor also celebrates his discoveries of how the host senses and responds to microbes, microbial derived products, and nutrients, with broad implications for human health and disease. I am highly appreciative of all that John has brought to Duke, and in addition to his own research program, his outstanding collaborations with Rodger Liddle and Raphael Valdivia and others, and his leadership of the Duke Microbiome Center.”

Wang, a professor in the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School, is an expert in the fields of zoonotic diseases, bat immunology and pathogen discovery. He has played a pivotal role in deepening our understanding of the likely origins of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During the early days of the pandemic, his team was among the first in the world to culture the SARS-CoV-2 virus from patient samples and developed serological antibody tests to identify an important missing link between three major COVID-19 clusters in Singapore. His team also invented cPass, the world’s first SARS-CoV-2 serological test to rapidly detect neutralizing antibodies that does not require containment facilities or live biological materials. At the present time, cPass is the only neutralizing antibody test for SARS-CoV-2 that has been granted Emergency Use Authorization by the US FDA.

“We are extremely proud of Linfa for being elected to this prestigious Academy,” said Thomas Coffman, MD, dean of the Duke-NUS Medical School. “This is a testament to his passion, leadership and tremendous contributions to the field of infectious diseases. I look forward to his continued success and seeing more of our young scientists follow in his footsteps.”