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Radolf and Caimano Laboratory

Lab Members

Justin D. Radolf, M.D.

Justin Radolf, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, Genetics and Genome Sciences, and Immunology

Justin Radolf received his B.S. degree in biology from Yale University in 1975. He attended medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, graduating in 1979. He was a resident in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1982. As a fellow in infectious diseases at UCLA (1982-1986), he began his research career in spirochetology, specifically studying Treponema pallidum, the cause of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease. His efforts to use recombinant DNA to identify outer membrane proteins of T. pallidum led to the discovery of the unique protein-deficient outer membrane of T. pallidum. Following fellowship, he continued his spirochete research as a faculty member at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. In the late 1980s, as Lyme disease began to emerge as an important public health problem, Radolf expanded his research program to include Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of Lyme disease, the most prevalent arthropod-borne pathogen in the United States. In 1999, he relocated to UConn Health where he is currently professor of medicine, pediatrics, and genetics and developmental biology. He is an author or co-author on more than 150 peer-reviewed publications and more than 30 chapters or review. His spirochete research has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1988.

Faculty Profile

Melissa J. Caimano, Ph.D.

Melissa Caimano, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Medicine

Melissa Caimano received a B.S. degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1989. She attended graduate school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham doing her thesis work on the genetic elements involved in Streptococcus pneumoniae capsule biosynthesis. In 1996, Caimano began a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Justin Radolf at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, relocating to the University of Connecticut in 1999. Her work has focused primarily on the regulatory pathways and molecular mechanisms underlying mammalian host adaptation and maintenance of Borrelia burgdorferi within its natural enzootic cycle. Most notably, these studies have led to the discovery that the alternate sigma factor RpoS plays a critical role in the down-regulation, as well as up-regulation, of borrelial genes specifically in response to mammalian host signals. She has published more than 46 peer-reviewed articles on microbial pathogenesis and related areas in high impact journals. Her work examining the interaction between the Lyme disease spirochete and its arthropod vector is supported by grants awarded to her by the National Research Fund for Tick-Borne Diseases (NRFTD) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIAID). Caimano currently is an associate professor in the UConn Health Department of Medicine. She also has served on the Editorial Board of Infection and Immunity since 2006.

Faculty Profile

André Alex Grassmann, Ph.D.

André Alex Grassmann, Ph.D., Instructor/Basic Sciences

André received his B.S. degree in Biological Sciences in 2009 from the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil. Since his undergraduate research André is studying pathogenic Leptospira and leptospirosis. He received his M.S. degree in 2011 and his Ph.D. in 2015, both from UFPel Biotechnology School. In 2013, he was granted a one year fellowship from Science without Borders program from Brazilian government and joined Drs. Caimano and Radolf to study differential gene expression by Leptospira interrogans within the mammalian host in order to identify genes involved in potential novel vaccine target antigens. After 2 years of post-doctoral research in Brazil, he returned to Radolf and Caimano lab in 2017 to continue his studies on gene regulation in Leptospira during host infection. In 2019, André expanded his research to studies on gene regulation by B. burgdorferi in response to different stimuli during its enzootic cycle, particularly the convergences of c-di-GMP- and PlzA-dependent signaling with the RpoS pathway. In 2022, André moved to an Instructor Faculty position in the Department of Medicine.

Everton B. Bettin, Ph.D., Post-doctoral fellow

Everton obtained his PhD degree in Biotechnology from the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), Brazil in 2022. The major focus of his thesis was the development of vaccines against Leptospirosis. In 2019, he was granted a one-year fellowship from the Brazilian government to join Drs. Grassmann and Caimano to study the unique leptospiral Omp85 proteins. After finishing his PhD in 2022, he returned to the Spirochete Research Labs as post-doctoral fellow to work on he development of a vaccine against infection by Treponema pallidum.
Melissa McLain

Melissa McLain, M.S., Research Assistant II

Melissa McLain received a B.A. in Biology from Assumption College in Worcester, MA in 2014. In 2018 she earned a M.S. in Biomolecular Science at Central Connecticut State University where she completed a research thesis on the effect of dopamine on the ASH receptor in C. elegans. Currently, Mel is working as a Research Assistant in Radolf and Caimano lab, where she assists in projects concerning Borrelia burgdoferi pathogenesis and gene regulation.

Morgan LeDoyt

Morgan LeDoyt, Laboratory Assistant II