Octavio Ramilo, M.D., a world-renowned expert in infectious diseases, has been named chair of the Department of Infectious Diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He joins St. Jude from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he served as Division Chief of Infectious Diseases.
A clinician-scientist, Ramilo’s research focuses on the pathogenesis, effects and treatment of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common and highly contagious virus that especially affects infants and young children. RSV infections are the No. 1 cause of hospitalizations and the second most common cause of death in children during the first year of their lives. Ramilo’s research explores the long-term impact of early RSV infections on the development of children’s immune systems and how they will respond to other infections as they grow. He is heavily involved in translational and clinical research aimed at understanding the host immune response to infections and vaccines using genomics and system analysis tools.
“Globally, infectious diseases are one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of five,” said James R. Downing, M.D., president and CEO of St. Jude. “With Dr. Ramilo’s leadership, St. Jude will introduce a new era of cross-disciplinary research that will address the devastating impact of pediatric infectious diseases.”
Ellis J. Neufeld, M.D., Ph.D., clinical director and executive vice president, adds, “We are delighted that Dr. Ramilo has come to St. Jude. While we had begun his recruitment process well before the serious RSV outbreak of late 2022, this recent surge, especially in infants, demonstrates how urgent the need is for research in this area.”
Ramilo is excited about the possibilities to advance research in the field of pediatric infectious diseases. “New programs and partnerships can synergize and open new areas of research that will improve and protect the health of children in ways no one else has attempted,” said Ramilo. “We have the opportunity to build an RSV program here that could be as influential worldwide as what St. Jude has already done with influenza.”
St. Jude is distinguished as a Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response (CEIRR) by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). It is one of six Collaborating Centers operating under the World Health Organization Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) that focuses on the threat to humans from influenza viruses of animals.
Ramilo has been a member of the NIAID and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Board of Scientific Counselors since 2019, and he lectures internationally about many aspects of infectious disease research. He has also been a member of several NIH review panels and was director of the National Pediatric Infectious Disease Foundation for eight years.
In addition to his RSV research, Ramilo works closely with the CEIRR, collaborating with Richard Webby, Ph.D.; Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D.; and Paul Thomas, Ph.D. Earlier in his career, he was director of AIDS-related medical services for Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and clinical director of Ryan White Title IV Programs at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Ramilo received his medical degree from University Complutense in Madrid, Spain, in 1981. He completed his fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases in 1990 and a postdoctoral fellowship in immunology in 1993 at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
He succeeds Elaine Tuomanen, M.D., who led the Department of Infectious Diseases at St. Jude since 1997.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening disorders. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% since the hospital opened more than 60 years ago. St. Jude shares the breakthroughs it makes to help doctors and researchers at local hospitals and cancer centers around the world improve the quality of treatment and care for even more children. To learn more, visit stjude.org, read St. Jude Progress blog, and follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.