VFCE Members

Director, Valley Fever Center for Excellence
Professor of Medicine, Immunobiology, and BIO5 Institute

Dr. Galgiani has been working with Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis) for the last four decades. As Director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence his passion is research in the treatment of Valley fever. This involves studies to improve the detection of the fungus in the environment, to increase the sensitivity of diagnostic tests for patients, and to develop a vaccine to prevent the disease in both humans and animals.

Professor of Biostatistics

As an academic biostatistician, I collaborate with researchers in a variety of disciplines, including the clinicians and scientists at the Valley Fever Center of Excellence.  I have provided study design and biostatistical analysis support on projects ranging from vaccine development to the assessment and development of prediction models from clinical data.

Assistant Professor, Bio5 Institute

Dr Buntzman’s research leverages transcriptomics, high throughput computational immunogenomics, and genetics methodologies to reveal the adaptive immune response characteristics that are central to the pathogenesis of coccidioidomycosis infections and the protective immunity generated by vaccination. Dr Buntzman’s global goals are to improve diagnostic testing and to develop novel therapeutics modalities for patients with coccidioidomycosis.

Professor, School of Geography & Development
Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences, Public Health

Andrew Comrie is an interdisciplinary climate scientist and geographer. He has a primary appointment as professor in the School of Geography & Development, with joint appointments in Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences and in Public Health. His research links climate with health, pathogens and vectors, including coccidioidomycosis. He focuses on questions such as: How do disease patterns shift in space and time with changes in climate? His expertise includes climate and health, synoptic climatology, urban and regional air pollution, climate variability and change in the Southwest United States, and techniques for mapping climate and environmental information.

Assistant Professor, Medicine

As both a practicing physician and a research scientist, Dr. Donovan has long cultivated a particular interest in medical mycology. Her research focuses on the identification of virulence factors and the interaction of several fungi with the human host. She conducted studies in Coccidioides with goals to help in the earlier diagnosis of Valley fever to improve patient outcomes, lower costs and heighten antibiotic stewardship. Additionally, she is developing plans to study the host innate immune response to Coccidioides with a focus on the early events in coccidioidomycosis.

Assistant Professor, Epidemiology
Assistant Professor, Infectious Diseases

Dr. Ellingson’s research focuses on the intersection of healthcare delivery and infectious diseases. She has worked with the Valley Fever Center for Excellence to assess diagnostic testing in outpatient and emergency care settings and to understand factors associated with the inappropriate use of antibiotics for patients with Valley Fever. Dr. Ellingson is interested in the clinical epidemiology of Valley Fever and how early diagnosis can improve care.

Research Scientist
Professor, Immunobiology

The Frelinger lab has been interested for some years in immune responses to the lung pathogens, influenza virus and Francisella tularensis. They have begun collaborations on the role of T cell responses in Coccidioides infections and the development of an effective vaccine.

Clinical Assistant Professor, Medicine
Co-Director, Antimicrobial Stewardship Program

Dr. Hayes's research and projects primarily focus on optimizing antimicrobial usage and limiting unnecessary diagnostic testing. His research interests related to Valley fever involve studying antifungal usage and stewardship in an endemic region for Valley fever. He is currently studying the utilization of antifungal agents, such as fluconazole, across multiple hospitals to define targets for antifungal stewardship. He is an active member of the Mycoses Study Group Education and Research Consortium and participates in MSG-sponsored clinical trials (previously an investigator for MSG-15: Suba-itraconazole versus conventional itraconazole in the treatment of endemic mycoses: a multi-center, open-label, randomized comparative trial).

Assistant Professor, Immunobiology
Assistant Professor, BIO5 Institute

The Johnson laboratory focuses on how microbes react to metal stress. He hopes to exploit microbial systems to make better treatments in bacterial and fungal systems. Dr. Johnson collaborates with the Galgiani laboratory as a protein biochemist to make new formulations of the CTS1 protein for diagnostics and understanding immunity.

Professor, Internal Medicine
Research Director, Lung Insitute

Dr. Knox's research utilizes human blood and lung cells to study the characteristics of a protective immune response to Coccidioides. He is funded to develop a blood test to diagnose valley fever and to determine who has been infected in the past.  Dr. Knox is also interested in determining non-invasive ways to diagnose and discriminate lung nodules related to past valley fever infection from cancer nodules.

Professor, Management Information Systems
Faculty Member, Bio5

Dr. Leroy focuses on natural language processing and has been working extensively with medical and healthcare text. She is interested in extracting data from free text in EHR for use as an additional data dimension in a variety of analyses. Her research interests related to valley fever include the automated extraction and analysis of information from EHR to discover symptom combinations of valley fever that would support early diagnosis.

Research Specialist, Principal

Dr. Mandel’s current research has been focused on the mechanisms of the pathogenicity of Coccidioides species. With this goal, she has been able to develop tools for gene disruption in order to understand the genes’ relationship to virulence. She hopes to use her research to understand the transition from the organism’s state of inability to cause disease while in the soil to a state of being able to cause disease once inside a host.

Professor, Pharmacy Practice-Science
Associate Professor, Medicine

Dr. Nix has played a key role in the design and implementation of the Nikkomycin Z clinical trials at the Valley Fever Center for Excellence. He teaches infectious disease topics in multiple courses and precepts students and residents on infectious disease rotations. His other research interests include treatment of bacterial infections, antibacterial resistance and antimicrobial stewardship.

Professor, School of Plant Sciences

Dr. Orbach is a professor of plant pathology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. His focus is based on studying the ecological niche of the fungus that causes Valley fever and the analysis of the global gene expression in Coccidioides posadasii during both saprobic and parasitic growth. In his analysis, he has been working with the Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE). His research interests also include the molecular genetics of fungal pathogenicity in animals and plants.

Assistant Research Scientist

Dr. Powell is an Assistant Research Scientist in the Valley Fever Center for Excellence.  His work focuses on the use of animal models to study the host response to both Coccidioides vaccination as well as infection.  Dr Powell uses a variety of transgenic mouse models coupled with cellular immunology to dissect these host responses. His particular interest is in the initial recognition steps that allow some hosts to control infection where others do not. 

Research Scientist
Associate Research Professor, ACBS

Dr. Shubitz is a Research Scientist at The Valley Fever Center for Excellence. Her research focus includes developing a vaccine for Valley fever, studying the epidemiology of the disease in canines, the ecological distribution of the fungus in Southern Arizona and interactions between the host (both animal and human) and the fungus that causes Valley fever, using animal models.

Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director, Transplant and Immunocompromised Host Infectious Diseases Service

Dr. Zangeneh is a Transplant Infectious Diseases physician who is involved in the daily care of immunocompromised patients affected by various infections. His research interests related to Valley fever involve studying coccidioidomycosis diagnostics and management in HSCT and SOT recipients. He is a member of the American Society of Transplantation and has published numerous articles relating to coccidioidomycosis in immunocompromised patients.