Fernando Villalta, PhD

Co-Associate Director
TN-CFAR Developmental Core
Professor and Chair
Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Physiology

Dr. Fernando Villalta has pioneered major research discoveries in infectious diseases that cause immunodeficiencies over the years by discovering new microbial molecules and host receptors that play critical roles in the pathogenesis of microbial infections that are targets for intervention, discovered novel mechanisms of infection and innate immunity against intracellular pathogens, discovered novel drugs using structure-based design targeting specific pathogen molecules for the treatment of infectious diseases and effective cutting-edge microbial vaccines. In addition, in collaborative studies with his colleagues, he has discovered novel mechanisms of HIV-1 pathogenesis. The NIH has continually supported Dr. Villalta’s research programs on infectious diseases for more than 30 years. His numerous scientific contributions have been published in high impact journals. Dr. Villalta has extensive experience serving on NIH Study Sections for more than 25 years and currently he serves as a standing member of the NIAID Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Review Committee (MID-B) for the period 2016-2022. He has a strong record of training minority scientists (over 80), some of whom have become University Presidents, members of the National Academy of Medicine, Deans, VPs for Research, Department Chairs, tenured university Professors, and scientists in government agencies. He also has an excellent record of mentoring junior investigators in his department as chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Physiology and Interim Director of the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research at Meharry; they have received R01, R21 and other types of NIH grant support. He is the PI of two T32s from NIAID and NHLBI that have been training the next generation of African-American scientists in infectious diseases for more than 20 years. Dr. Villalta also serves on national boards, editorial boards, and as editor for scientific journals. Dr. Villalta is the activity leader of the current U54- Meharry Translational Research Center (MeTRC) Pilot Research Program and served as the Deputy Director of the MeTRC’s first funding cycle. Dr. Villalta is a key activity leader of the Training and Mentoring Core of the U54-Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine and Population Health, the Director of the Investigator Development Core of the U54-Center of Health Disparities at Meharry and the Associate Director of the Development Core of the TN-CFAR, where he mentors and trains investigators to fill the cross-training gap between genomics, health disparities and HIV/AIDS infectious diseases to enhance extramural funding and fosters scientific team-building and skill development. In summary, he has a demonstrated record of successful and productive research programs in infectious diseases, effective and highly dynamic leadership and mentorship in the training of investigators dealing with basic, clinical and translational research fostering their career development as independent investigators. Thus, his expertise and experience has prepared him well to lead as Co-Associate Director of the Development Core in the TN-CFAR.