During an average flu season, the influenza virus is associated with 250,000-500,000 deaths and 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness worldwide. St. Jude is a hub for U.S. and global research, surveillance and response systems, where researchers and physicians study how new influenza strains emerge in humans, and also how to improve vaccines and clinical care. We have researchers on faculty who work with World Health Organization to provide formal recommendation for the composition of influenza vaccines each year.
The following immunology experts are available to offer credible information, hands-on expertise and clinical insight on influenza, the flu vaccine, virology and infectious diseases.
To schedule interviews or speak with one of our experts, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact one of our media relations staff.
Stacey Schultz-Cherry, PhD, a faculty member in the Infectious Diseases department of St. Jude, is also deputy director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds and co-director of the U.S. Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. She studies how influenza viruses and astroviruses (gastrointestinal) make people sick, as well as microbial co-infections, novel vaccines and therapeutics. In a recent study of obese mice, she showed how obesity makes vaccines less protective, flu illness more severe and treatments less effective. Schultz-Cherry can provide information associated with increased efficacy in flu vaccines and new research surrounding global initiatives for better treatments of more vulnerable populations.
Paul Thomas, PhD, is a faculty member of the Immunology department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. His research interests include innate and adaptive immunity to influenza, T cell receptor types in infectious and cancerous states, and influenza-associated, immune-induced healing responses and pathology. He is a principal investigator of an international study to understand how someone’s first exposure to flu, whether by infection or vaccine, can affect their immune responses for the rest of their lives. Thomas can provide insight into what shapes the immune response to the virus throughout the person’s life and better methods to treat influenza. He has recently published research about the body’s immune response to COVID-19.
Richard Webby, PhD, faculty in the Infectious Diseases department at St. Jude, directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds. He is an internationally recognized expert on swine influenza, a group of viruses that led to the emergence of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus. Webby can provide information on novel vaccine approaches, influenza virus ecology, influenza virus pathogenicity and determinants of host susceptibility to influenza.
“Experts, including myself, believe the combination of both the coronavirus and influenza virus swirling together throughout the US this fall and winter has the potential to exacerbate the strain on an already struggling public health system,” Richard Webby, PhD.
“With winter coming up and the expected arrival of flu brings us potential that we’re going to have two of these viruses causing the same symptoms putting twice the pressure on our health-care infrastructure,” Richard Webby PhD.