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Stephen Waggoner, PhD ’07

September 1, 2022  — The UVA Medical Alumni Association is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Achievement Award in Biomedical Sciences: Stephen Waggoner, PhD ’07.

Waggoner began his research career in the laboratory of Joost Oppenheim, MD, at the National Cancer Institute in 1995 prior to completing an undergraduate degree (BA in Biology and Chemistry) at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2000. He pursued his doctorate at the University of Virginia in the laboratory of Young Hahn, PhD, where he focused on immunosuppressive mechanisms employed by hepatitis C virus. He identified interactions between a viral protein and human immune receptor on antigen-presented cells that inhibited release of inflammatory cytokines and stimulation of antiviral T cell responses. His work contributed to seven publications and a Trainee Achievement Award from the American Association of Immunologists. Following defense of his thesis in 2007, Waggoner undertook postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Raymond Welsh, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. There he made major high impact discoveries concerning new innate immune sensors and critical immunoregulatory functions of natural killer cells during virus infection of mice. His 2011 publication in Nature shifted existing paradigms considering how natural killer cells are considered in human disease and contributed to a New Scholar Award from the Ellison Medical Foundation.

In 2013, Waggoner joined the faculty of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. His lab continues to elucidate key roles and molecular mechanisms underlying natural killer cell regulation of immunity during infection, vaccination, and immune disease. Over the past decade, his lab has published 26 papers, generated two patent filing, and graduated dozens of trainees. Waggoner’s commitment to education was recognized with the 2020 Richard Akeson Excellence in Teaching Award. He received a prestigious Avant-Garde Award (DP1 grant) for HIV/AIDS and Substance Use Disorder Research from the NIH in 2014, a 2017 Falk Medical Research Trust Catalyst Award, and directs two NIH R01s. He serves as a standing member of the HIV Immunopathogenesis and Vaccine Development study section.

The work of the Waggoner lab has revealed that natural killer cells restrict vaccine efficacy and developed translational methods to subvert this activity to enhance protection against infectious diseases. In addition, Waggoner is an enthusiastic collaborator exploring dysregulation of these activities of natural killer cells in children with lupus, systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and atopic dermatitis.

Congratulations to Dr. Waggoner on this well-deserved recognition.