By Emma Duge, Postbac in the Molecular Entomology Unit, Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research
On February 25, 2021, Eric Calvo, Ph.D. presented (virtually) at the NIAID Postbac Research Seminar Series – an opportunity for NIAID postbacs to engage with principal investigators (PIs). Dr. Calvo is an Earl Stadtman Investigator, NIH Distinguished Scholar, and chief of the Molecular Entomology Unit in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research. Emma Duge, an NIAID postbac in Dr. Calvo’s research group, reflects on the latest seminar and captures the useful advice for early-stage scientists shared by her mentor.
For the last two decades, Dr. Calvo has dedicated his career to enriching our understanding of disease vectors’ salivary proteins, primarily in female mosquitoes. When female mosquitoes take a bloodmeal, they secrete saliva into the host at the bite site. That saliva contains hundreds of different proteins and peptides, many of which are involved in evading the host hemostatic system. During Dr. Calvo’s research seminar for NIAID postbacs, he reiterated, “Mosquitoes aren’t just live syringes, they’re invertebrate pharmacologists!” Dr. Calvo and his lab members are discovering novel salivary functions in blood-feeding arthropods and investigating how salivary proteins may also influence transmission and infectivity of vector-borne pathogens.
Dr. Calvo highlighted how the biological function of most salivary components remains unclear. Recent advances in transcriptome and proteome research allow an unprecedented insight into the complexity of these compounds, indicating that their molecular diversity as well as the diversity of their targets is still larger than previously thought. His lab has made progress by identifying functions of the D7 family of salivary proteins, which are involved in the transmission and infectivity of several pathogens such as West Nile virus, dengue virus, and malaria and could serve as a potential vaccine target.
After bringing us on a journey through his lab’s research, he gave valuable career advice and shared inspirational personal stories with the group of postbacs. He encouraged the young researchers not to let the opinions of others interfere with their goals and emphasized that the best way to establish yourself as an emerging scientist is through hard work, dedication, and persistence. Dr. Calvo’s seminar and his ongoing commitment to supporting young scientists is truly inspiring!