Immunologist honored with UFRF professorship


Dr. Janet Yamamoto

Dr. Janet Yamamoto, a professor of immunology at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has received a UF Research Foundation professorship.

Sponsored by the university’s Division of Sponsored Research, the professorships are awarded for a three-year term to tenured faculty campuswide for distinguished research and scholarship that is expected to lead to continuing distinction in their field. The honor includes a $5,000 salary increase each year for three years and a one-time $3,000 award for research support.

A world-renowned immunologist in the college’s department of infectious diseases and pathology, Yamamoto is a co-discoverer of the deadly feline immunodeficiency virus in cats and also developed the first FIV vaccine, a dual-subtype vaccine that was the first for any lentiviral disease. She holds patents on key practical technologies related to the FIV virus.

“As Dr. Yamamoto’s department chair for 11 years, I have had the opportunity to observe her intense focus on advancing her basic research findings to the point that they constitute practical advances in feline medicine, which is how she conceptualizes and pursues her research goals,” said John Dame, Ph.D., Yamamoto’s department chairman, in a letter nominating her for the award. “Her research is at the molecular level, but she has never lost sight of her goal of translating her research findings into practical products.”

Dame said Yamamoto’s career goal was to develop a vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS in humans.

“Based upon exciting discoveries she has made in the feline AIDS model, that goal has become an even higher priority,” he said.

In 2005, Yamamoto published in the journal AIDS that the HIV-1 p24 antigen is an effective immunogen in cats.
“The discovery promises to form the basis of a new commercial FIV vaccine that offers a significant advantage over the previous vaccine in that the cats vaccinated are readily distinguishable from those naturally infected with FIV,” Dame said. “The success of this approach strongly suggests that the FIV-cat model may be of great value in identifying protective epitopes for HIV-1 vaccine design. This achievement places her among the most successful and promising AIDS researchers internationally.”

Yamamoto thanked her research associates for their role in her professional accomplishments.

 “This award could not have been achieved without the dedication of my laboratory members,” Yamamoto said. “They include my longtime scientists, Dr. Ruiyu Pu, who has worked in my lab for 20 years;  Dr. James Coleman, who has worked with me for 13 years; and our most recent associate, Dr. Jeffrey Abbott.”

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