As a result of medical advances that prolong the lives of many patients with life- threatening conditions (cancer, AIDS, and transplants), which often compromise host defenses and immunity, the incidence of opportunistic fungal infections continues to increase. The development of new antifungal drugs has improved the prognosis for many patients, but they have also led to the emergence of new and more resistant pathogenic fungi. Thus, it is essential to recruit and train young scientists to develop rigorous independent careers focused on mycological research. The same mandate applies to research on fungal plant pathogens, which continue to reduce the global food supply. In contrast, several innocuous fungal species have become powerful surrogates for studies of eukaryotic biology and genetics. These model fungi species have proved indispensable in driving progress in biomedical sciences and biotechnology. Thus, investigators and institutes in multiple areas of research continue to seek scientists who are capable of utilizing model fungi as experimental tools. This application proposes a continuation of the multidisciplinary, tri-institutional Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Training Program (MMPTP), which was awarded 10 years ago. The MMPTP involves three neighboring institutions, Duke University, North Carolina State University and North Carolina University at Chapel Hill. The 26 faculty members constitute perhaps the largest concentration of researchers who study fungi. They share resources, interact regularly, and collaborate frequently. The MMPTP recruits, supports, and trains promising postdoctoral scientists and physicians to develop productive research careers in molecular mycology and pathogenesis. Candidates for training include recent doctoral graduates in biomedical sciences, physicians who have completed residency training, and experienced postdoctoral fungal researchers with outstanding potential who are supported for shorter tenures to enhance their expertise. These trainees will become the future experts and leaders in diverse areas of fungal research in academia, industry, and government. The MMPTP has been highly successful. All 24 trainees who completed the program have productive careers in science. One is a governmental scientist, seven are in industry, and 16 are in academia including multiple alumni who are assistant and associate professors with tenure excelling in mycology.

Public Health Relevance

This successful postdoctoral training program includes 26 faculty members at three neighboring universities, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. The program provides a broad range of rigorous research training with a common focus on fungi as pathogens and as model eukaryotes. Twenty-four trainees have completed the program, and all are employed as research scientists in academia, industry or government.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Institutional National Research Service Award (T32)
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Microbiology and Infectious Diseases B Subcommittee (MID)
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Robbins, Christiane M
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Duke University
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