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J. Victor Garcia, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Global Health and Infectious Disease, is the 2018 recipient of the Opendra Narayan Lecture.

Victor Garcia, PhD, is the 2018 recipient of the Opendra Narayan Lecture.

Established in 2009 the Opendra “Bill” Narayan Lectureship was instituted to recognize investigators who have significantly advanced the field of neurovirology through research involving animal models of viral neuropathogenesis. Garcia will receive the award during the International Society for NeuroVirology’s meeting in mid-April in Chicago.

Garcia is a professor of medicine in the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), the Lineberger Cancer Center, the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID), and the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the UNC. He is an Oliver Smithies investigator and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

“This is a great honor that reflects very well how research being conducted at Carolina is at the cutting edge of multiple disciplines,” Garcia said. “The support from UNC makes all the difference. We have some of the brightest students in the country with outstanding creativity that are fearless and willing to take on pre-existing dogma and change the field.”

Throughout his career, Garcia’s group has established an outstanding track record in the development, implementation and use of humanized mice for biomedical research. Since their landmark publication describing the humanized BLT mice, and more recently, the complementary T-cell only and myeloid-cell only mice, these mouse models have been widely used to address key questions addressing the role of the human immune system in HIV acquisition, prevention, pathogenesis, persistence and cure.

Using the myeloid-only-mice, his group was able to demonstrate the role of macrophages in sustained HIV replication in vivo and how macrophages can seed HIV infection in the brain. In addition, his laboratory has used this model to demonstrate the importance of tissue macrophages in HIV persistence and their direct relevance to HIV cure strategies.

Garcia has distinguished himself for his work with underrepresented minorities in science serving on the board of directors of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. For his work in this area he was awarded the E. E. Just lecture from the American Society for Cell Biology and the Diversity Lecture from the American Society of Microbiology.