Lackner Leads Primate Center

October 17, 2001

Heather Heilman
Phone: 865-5714

Pete Gerone announced his retirement two years ago. In October, he will finally turn over the reins at the Tulane Regional Primate Research Center, where he has served as director since 1971. His successor, Andrew Lackner, was associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the division of comparative pathology at the New England Regional Primate Center before coming to Tulane.

His career has been devoted to research on AIDS and other life-threatening diseases, and he has both the academic and the administrative experience that his new position will demand. He became fascinated with pathogenesis, or the progression of disease, while in veterinary school at Colorado State University. "I like figuring out why things are broken," Lackner said.

That, by definition, is pathogenesis. He received his PhD from the University of California-Davis, where he became involved in AIDS research in the early years of the epidemic. "Work with primates is essential to finding ways to arrest the progress of AIDS," Lackner said. "It's becoming more and more clear that the early events set the stage for the rest of the disease."

"We're talking about what happens in the first few days," Lackner said. "We can't study that with humans because we don't know when they get infected. We can see how the virus gets into an individual cell and try to manipulate the system to shift the balance in our favor instead of the virus favor."

Lackner worked with Tulane veterinarian Ron Veazey on a paper that was published in Science in 1998. That research showed that SIV, the simian version of HIV, establishes itself in the intestine only days after the initial infection. The research was done when both Lackner and Veazey were at the New England Regional Primate Center, but Veazey made the move to Tulane a year before Lackner. Lackner brings several different research grants to Tulane.

He is investigating how the brain and the gastrointestinal tract become infected with SIV. Under Gerone's leadership, the primate center became well known for research on AIDS, leprosy, Lyme disease, kidney disease, arthritis and other diseases. Lackner said he will build on Gerone's legacy by continuing to expand and energize the research program.

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