William J. Kaiser received an A.B. in English and B.S. in Cell Biology from the University of Georgia where he investigated programmed cell death pathways in the laboratory of Lois K. Miller. He completed a Ph.D. at Emory University in the laboratory of Edward S. Mocarski. As a graduate student, he received the outstanding student scholar and graduate school career award, and in 2012 he received an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award to establish a research program focused on unraveling the interplay of viruses and host-defense pathways.
Regulated cell death is critical for metazoan life to sculpt body shape and to eliminate unnecessary or damaged cells. Apoptotic cell death is the prominent form of cell death that occurs naturally during development, and later in life contributes to homeostasis; whereas, necrotic cell death is often associated with inflammatory abnormalities, especially in damaged or inflamed tissues. Recent studies have revealed that necrotic cell death can be orchestrated by some of the same enzymes that control apoptosis including the kinases RIP1 and RIP3. In the context of viral infection, these kinases eliminate infected cells to benefit the host. Our laboratory focuses on defining the role of RIP1/RIP3 kinases in inflammation and programmed cell death following activation of death receptor and pathogen recognition receptor pathways. Disease caused by dysregulation of these kinases as well as pathogen subversion strategies will be interrogated. Directed therapies aimed at modulating necrotic cell death will emerge from a more defined understanding of RIP kinases in host defence and in controlling cell fate.