Regents’ Professor of Microbiology Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Election as a Fellow of AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers for meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications. This year, 347 Fellows are being added.
Keim’s peers recognized him for “distinguished contributions to the fields of microbiology, evolution and genetics through the use of genomic analysis for applications in forensics, biology and public health,” according to the AAAS, which will formally announce this year’s Fellows in the Nov. 27 issue of the organization’s journal Science. Keim and other new Fellows also will be recognized Feb. 13 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
A world-renowned expert in anthrax and other infectious diseases, Keim is director of the Pathogen Genomics Division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, known as TGen North, in Flagstaff. He is also the Cowden Endowed Chair of Microbiology at NAU, where is serves as director of the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics.
At TGen and NAU, Keim directs investigations into how to bolster the nation’s biodefense, and to prevent outbreaks—even pandemics—of such contagions as flu, cholera, E. coli, salmonella, and even the plague.
“Thousands of NAU students have participated in research organized by Dr. Keim, and from there have launched successful scientific careers,” said NAU President Rita Cheng. “His research group has forged a strong partnership between the university and TGen North, generating an important economic impact and producing health benefits for Arizona and beyond.”
The NAU lab works with numerous government agencies to help thwart bioterrorism and the spread of pathogen-caused diseases.
“I’m gratified to know this honor also brings recognition to everyone in the lab, including the students who work with us,” Keim said. “Their contributions, achieved through dedication and talent, are meaningful and well deserving of the attention.”
Keim is a former member and chair of the federal government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, where he helped draft national research policy guidelines for blunting bioterrorism while elevating ethical standards and improving the quality of scientific research.
“Our science has been completely transformed by the rapid advancements of technology,” Keim said. “Now, TGen’s job is to use these advancements to make positive impacts on human health. We have that ability, therefore, we feel that we have that responsibility to mankind.”
Keim’s lab was involved in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax-letters attacks. Anthrax samples from the U.S. House and Senate buildings were rushed under heavy guard to Keim’s laboratory in Flagstaff for analysis. At the time, the FBI didn’t have a biosafety Level 3 lab. Keim’s lab became the major repository for anthrax samples gathered for comparison by the FBI from across the globe.
TGen North collaborates with local, national and international universities, biotech companies, security agencies, health care providers, public health departments and other institutions in its quest to protect human health.
In being honored as a AAAS Fellow, Keim joins Thomas Whitham, NAU Regents’ Professor of Biology, who was named an AAAS Fellow in 2011 for his research in ecological sciences.