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David L. Sacks, Ph.D.

Photo of David L. Sacks, Ph.D. 

Chief, Intracellular Parasite Biology Section
Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases

Major Areas of Research

  • Study of parasite and sand fly molecules controlling the development of transmissible infections in the vector
  • Development of vaccines against leishmaniasis and their evaluation using infected sand fly challenge
  • Mechanisms of acquired resistance and those controlling persistent infection
  • Mechanisms underlying pathogenesis and immunosuppression in human visceral leishmaniasis and development of immune-based therapies

Program Description

Research in the Intracellular Parasite Biology Section (IPBS) focuses on the immunology and cell biology of leishmanial infections and the biology of Leishmania parasites within their mammalian hosts and sand-fly vectors. The research may have relevance to diseases, such as tuberculosis, caused by other intracellular pathogens or to other vector-borne diseases, such as malaria.

The IPBS is composed of an interdisciplinary group of immunologists, cell biologists, and entomologists conducting basic and translational research aimed at the following:

  • Optimizing infection models in mice initiated by natural sand fly bite to study the early host-parasite interactions in the skin and to evaluate experimental vaccines more stringently
  • Understanding molecular interactions at the sand fly-Leishmania interface that control the development of transmissible infections, including the role of insect microbiota
  • Exploiting a recently identified sexual cycle of Leishmania during their development in the sand fly vector to identify genes controlling important traits, such as virulence, tissue tropism, and drug resistance
  • Understanding the role of the inflammasome and IL-1 beta in the development of severe cutaneous pathology due to L. major
  • Understanding the mechanisms underlying the immunologic defect in patients with visceral leishmaniasis in India, focusing on the regulation of IL-10 production, its role in pathogenesis, and its inhibition as an approach to therapy

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Dr. Sacks obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard University for studies on immune responses to chlamydial infections. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute for Medical Research in London (Mill Hill) studying immune suppression in African trypanosomiasis, he joined the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases in 1980. He became a senior investigator in 1986.

Research Group

Photo of the David Sacks' Research Gr
​Members of the Intracellular Parasite Biology Section, June 2014

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Selected Publications

Sacks DL. Vaccines against tropical parasitic diseases: a persisting answer to a persisting problem. Nat Immunol. 2014 May;15(5):403-5.

Inbar E, Akopyants NS, Charmoy M, Romano A, Lawyer P, Elnaiem DE, Kauffmann F, Barhoumi M, Grigg M, Owens K, Fay M, Dobson DE, Shaik J, Beverley SM, Sacks D. The mating competence of geographically diverse Leishmania major strains in their natural and unnatural sand fly vectors. PLoS Genet. 2013;9(7):e1003672.

Gautam S, Kumar R, Maurya R, Nylén S, Ansari N, Rai M, Sundar S, Sacks D. IL-10 neutralization promotes parasite clearance in splenic aspirate cells from patients with visceral leishmaniasis. J Infect Dis. 2011 Oct;204(7):1134-7.

Peters NC, Kimblin N, Secundino N, Kamhawi S, Lawyer P, Sacks DL. Vector transmission of leishmania abrogates vaccine-induced protective immunity. Plos Pathog. 2009 Jun;5(6):e1000484.

Akopyants NS, Kimblin N, Secundino N, Patrick R, Peters N, Lawyer P, Dobson DE, Beverley SM, Sacks DL. Demonstration of genetic exchange during cyclical development of Leishmania in the sand fly vector. Science. 2009 Apr 10;324(5924):265-8.

Peters NC, Egen JG, Secundino N, Debrabant A, Kimblin N, Kamhawi S, Lawyer P, Fay MP, Germain RN, Sacks D. In vivo imaging reveals an essential role for neutrophils in leishmaniasis transmitted by sand flies. Science. 2008 Aug 15;321(5891):970-4.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication list.

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Last Updated June 12, 2014