Jorge Galán, Ph.D., D.V.M., the Lucille P. Markey Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis, has won the 2011 Robert Koch Award, one of the highest honors in microbiology, for his work on the mechanisms of infection by food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.

These bacteria cause millions of cases of infectious gastroenteritis worldwide each year, a major public health burden in both industrialized and developing countries.

“With his fundamental research on mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis [Galán] contributed substantially to the foundation of cellular microbiology as a scientific field,” stated the award citation from the Robert Koch Foundation, based in Berlin, Germany.

Galán chairs the School of Medicine’s multidisciplinary Section of Microbial Pathogenesis, in which faculty with expertise in genetics, immunology, and cell biology study pathogenic microbes.

He and members of his lab study the molecular “cross-talk” that occurs between pathogens and their hosts during infection. Galán is particularly well-known for his studies of a bacterial nanomachine known as the type III secretion system, which many pathogenic bacteria use to deliver virulence proteins into host cells. Understanding this nanomachine could lead to a new classes of vaccines and antimicrobials to prevent many important bacterial infections.

The Robert Koch Award, which includes a prize of 100,000 euros, is named in honor of the German physician who formulated Koch’s postulates, the first systematic criteria guiding research on microbial diseases.

Koch, one of the founders of the field of microbiology, was awarded the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his seminal work on tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.