Virologist Kylene Kehn-Hall to direct the Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens
Kylene Kehn-Hall, professor of virology from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, has been appointed director of the Center for Emerging, Zoonotic, and Arthropod-borne Pathogens (CeZAP) in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, effective Aug. 22.
“I am excited that Dr. Kylene Kehn-Hall, a world-class scientist with extensive leadership experience has accepted this role,” said X.J. Meng, founding director of the center, University Distinguished Professor of Virology, and interim executive director of Fralin Life Sciences Institute. “She is very passionate about CeZAP and its mission, and has been actively participating in various center-led activities since the center’s formation. Kylene has the leadership, vision, passion, and respect from center-affiliated faculty to effectively lead and advance the center’s mission.”
With infectious disease emerging and reemerging worldwide and threatening the health of humans, animals, and plants, Virginia Tech formed this center in the summer of 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with world-renowned researcher Meng at the helm.
Similar to Meng’s research, Kehn-Hall’s research focuses on understanding the mechanism of viral pathogenesis and developing antivirals for vector-borne and zoonotic diseases. Her sponsored research portfolio includes funding by the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and the private sector, which encompasses millions of dollars in active research.
“COVID-19 reemphasized the importance of research and education on emerging zoonotic diseases and CeZAP is well-positioned to tackle this global need,” said Kehn-Hall. “CeZAP faculty are performing impressive and innovative research in the infectious disease space, which span from foundation science on infectious diseases to translational efforts such as vaccine development. We are also committed to training the next generation of infectious disease scientists, who will contribute to pandemic responses in the future. I am honored to be leading the center in its transdisciplinary research and educational endeavors.”
As the associate director of the center for the past eight months, Kehn-Hall has served on the CeZAP advisory and leadership committees from the center’s beginning and taught a two-credit infectious disease course for the center’s Infectious Disease Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program.
Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Kehn-Hall was the director of the biosciences doctoral graduate program and the associate director of the School of Systems Biology, both at George Mason University. She also served as an associate professor at George Mason University and as a research scientist in the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
She is a member of the American Society for Virology and the American Society for Microbiology. Kehn-Hall has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from The George Washington University and bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biology from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Over the past few years under Meng’s leadership, the center has now more than 110 affiliated faculty from seven colleges who are engaging in transdisciplinary research collaborations. The center has a weekly distinguished speaker seminar series, a team-building seed grant program, 10 thematic focus areas, and is hosting its first infectious diseases symposium in October.
CeZAP-affiliated faculty led several collaborative interdisciplinary federal center and program grant applications including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) U19 grant, a NIH G20 grant, a NIH P01 grant, NIH K12 postdoctoral training grant, a National Science Foundation Research Training grant, and two National Science Foundation center grants.
Administratively housed in the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, the center also receives support from the Virginia Agricultural Experimental Station, the Provost’s Office, the Graduate School, and six colleges.