Rhea Coler, PhD

"“For over 20 years, I have committed myself to 4 key scientific themes: discovery, translational research, global health education, and mentorship.”"

  • Rhea Coler, PhD, is a senior investigator at the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research. She received her PhD. from The University of Washington, her MS from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and her BS from Mc Gill University. Dr. Coler has over 20 years of experience in studying the pathogenesis of infectious disease pathogens, biomarker discovery and diagnostics development in academic, biotechnology and non-profit environments. Her expertise in infectious disease and emerging epidemics was obtained largely through her roles as a student, technician, fellow or scientist with positions held in the UK, the Caribbean, Africa, and the US. Dr. Coler serves as a scientific advisor or committee member for global health and/or pandemic, epidemic-prone infectious disease at The World Health Organization, The University of Washington, Harvard University and the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, as well as having an affiliate professorship at the University of Washington in the Department of Global Health.

     

     

Overview

Research Description

Dr. Coler’s current research centers on vaccine development and host-directed therapies against a variety of epidemic and pandemic diseases. The Coler lab’s mission is to develop products to fight tuberculosis, nontuberculous mycobacteria and flaviviruses to improve outcomes in adult and childhood health — major causes of mortality, poverty, and inequality in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC). Our focus is translational research: we funnel vaccine candidates from the laboratory to human studies. Some viable solutions to-date include M72 and ID93 for tuberculosis, both in Phase 2 clinical testing.

The pathogens we study pose significant challenges in that they have evolved to evade or suppress host immunity. In an effort to address these issues, we are investigating new vaccine and host-directed therapy concepts aimed at achieving protective efficacy. Toward this goal, we design candidate vaccines, test them extensively in preclinical models including mice, guinea pigs and non-human primates to demonstrate acceptable tolerability and immunogenicity, and evaluate both prophylactic and therapeutic potential in these animal models. Our studies have shown that when administered in combination with antimicrobial drugs profound protection is induced that persists after drugs are withdrawn.

Studies currently in progress in the Coler lab aim to elucidate mechanisms of protection mediated by various prophylactic and therapeutic approaches including the application of novel adjuvants, mRNA vaccine delivery and combinatorial regimens to further improve these outcomes.

As a member of the Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC) and a Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs) site, Dr. Coler is also working on clinical trials of therapeutics and prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines for a variety of infectious disease pathogens including SARS-CoV-2, influenza and schistosomiasis.

Results from our work has resulted in several patents, three start-up biotechnology companies, and translation of several infectious disease vaccines from preclinical to clinical development.