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Dr. Victor Nizet

Drug Discovery

Victor Nizet

Victor Nizet, M.D.

Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Professor and Division Chief
Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine


(858) 534-7408

Research Summary: New Anti-Infective Therapies

Dr. Nizet’s laboratory interests lie in understanding the fundamental mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis and the innate immune system, with a special focus on human streptococcal and staphylococcal infections. Using a variety of molecular genetic approaches, the laboratory discovers and characterizes bacterial virulence factors involved in cytotoxicity, adherence, invasion, inflammation, molecular mimicry and resistance to immunologic clearance. In companion studies, we investigate the contribution of host factors such as antimicrobial peptides, leukocyte surface receptors, signal transduction pathways, and transcription factors in defense against invasive bacterial infection.

We have shown that the basic information gained through this platform can lead to novel treatment strategies for infectious diseases, involving targeted neutralization of bacterial virulence phenotypes and pharmacologic augmentation of host innate immune function. Additional research examines innovative vaccine approaches to prevent infection by leading Gram-positive bacterial pathogens.

Academic Achievements

Education: B.A. in Biology (1984) Reed College; M.D. (1989) Stanford University, Pediatric Residency & Chief Residency (1993) Harvard University, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Fellowship (1997) University of Washington.

Awards and Honors: ALA Career Investigator Award (2004); AHA Established Investigator Award (2004); American Society for Clinical Investigation (2006); E. Mead Johnson Award for Research in Pediatrics (2008); AAF Senior Investigator Award (2008); Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology (2012). Rady Children’s Hospital Award for Excellence in Research (2013), UCSD Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Fellow Mentoring (2013)

Leadership Experience: Track Leader, Microbiology & Immunology, UCSD Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program (2005); Chief, Division of Host-Microbe Systems & Therapeutics UCSD (2007-). Director, UCSD Center for Immunity, Infection & Inflammation (2013 - ); Vice Chair for Basic Research, Department of Pediatrics (2015-).


  • Pathogens and Host Defense (BIOM 253)
  • From the Molecule to the Organism (BIOM 200)
  • Principles of Pharmacology (SSPPS 208)

Key Contributions to Pharmaceutical Sciences

  • Discovered the genetic basis and mechanism of action of numerous virulence factors produced by the leading bacterial pathogens of humans, identifying new targets for therapy.
  • Elucidated many key functions of the mammalian innate immune system, highlighting strategies for boosting phagocytic cell defenses against drug-resistant pathogens.
  • Studied how existing pharmaceutical agents, including both antibiotics and other drug classes, can synergize with the innate immune system and may be repurposed to infectious disease therapy.

Selected Recent Publications (from >325 peer-reviewed articles)

Liu et al. (2008). A cholesterol biosynthesis inhibitor blocks Staphylococcus aureus virulence. Science 319:1391-1394.

Chow et al. (2010). Statins enhance formation of phagocyte extracellular traps. Cell Host Microbe. 8:445-454.

van Sorge NM, et al. (2014). The classical Lancefield antigen of group A Streptococcus is a virulence determinant with implications for vaccine design. Cell Host Microbe 15:729-740

Corriden R, Hollands A, Olson J, Derieux J, Lopez JM, Gonzalez DJ, Nizet V. (2015) Tamoxifen augments the innate immune function of neutrophils through modulation of intracellular ceramide. Nat Comm 6:8369.

Potential Collaborative Programs with the Pharmaceutical Industry

  • >20 years’ experience in clinical infectious diseases and basic microbiology and immunology research.
  • Broad array of molecular genetic, cellular, and in-vivo laboratory approaches to understanding virulence mechanisms and therapeutic approaches to leading bacterial pathogens.
  • Several active laboratory collaborations with several biotechnology and pharmaceutical company partners.