William R. Jacobs Jr is a professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Professor of Genetics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in The Bronx, New York, where he is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. Jacobs is pioneering the use of molecular genetics to control tuberculosis (TB), which kills nearly two million people a year. His research is identifying the genes that make Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) - the bacterium that causes TB - virulent, identifying new drug targets and engineering weakened strains that can be used as live vaccines. Jacobs was the first scientist to introduce foreign DNA into MTB, a technique now regularly used by TB investigators around the world. Since then he has discovered new ways of killing MTB that could also lead to a therapy to prevent drug-resistant TB strains from developing. He also devised an onsite lab test that not only quickly diagnoses TB, but also distinguishes treatable TB strains from those that are drug resistant—a process that ordinarily takes months.
In addition to his work on Tuberculosis, Jacobs, in collaboration with Dr Betsy Herold at Einstein, have developed a vaccine candidate for HSV that represents a completely new and different paradigm from earlier vaccine efforts and elicits an immune response distinct from that observed with natural infection. He believes his work on Herpes will hold the key to finally developing an effective vaccine for TB and other infectious diseases