Colorado State University Hires New Director for Infectious Disease Research

Colorado State University’s infectious disease research program will be under new leadership as of May 1. Dr. Rick Lyons, formerly with the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, is joining CSU to oversee the Infectious Disease Research Center on the university’s Foothills Campus and the infectious disease Supercluster. Lyons will replace Ralph Smith, who is retiring from CSU on May 30 after more than 27 years of service.

Lyons, a doctor of internal medicine, has extensive experience in infectious disease research and leadership. For the past 16 years, while at New Mexico Health Sciences Center, he was a professor of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine and director of the Center for Infectious Disease and Immunity. His research interests are focused on understanding the interaction of pathogens with a host, particularly for anthrax and tularemia. His laboratory has been a leading facility in the field of biothreats. Colorado State’s infectious disease research also focuses on biothreats, researching several diseases that could be used as a biological weapons.

“Colorado State University will continue to strengthen its expertise, strategic partnerships and global role in infectious disease under the leadership of Dr. Lyons,” said Bill Farland, vice president for Research at CSU. “His dedication to understanding, preventing, diagnosing and treating infectious disease is visible through his international reputation for excellence in research and a capacity for leadership and vision."

Lyons received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Washington State University in 1976 and his doctorate in immunology and microbiology at University of Texas Southwestern in 1981. His medical degree is from UT Southwestern in 1987. He performed his internship, residency and fellowship in hematology and oncology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Lyons has received funding from the American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency and the Department of Defense to study different aspects of host pathogenesis.

He is serves on the board of directors for the National Center for Genome Research and for the Biophysical Corporation in Austin. He sits on committees for the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences, which focus for on translating research into products to fight human diseases.

Colorado State’s infectious disease research is among the best in the world, with more than $50 million annually in research expenditures and more than 100 university faculty. With the addition of the soon-to-be-opened Research Innovation Center, the university’s Infectious Disease Research Center will grow to more than 120,000 square feet of research infrastructure, including the university’s Rocky Mountain Regional Biocontainment Laboratory. A $30-million-dollar, 38,000-square-foot building, the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at CSU was the first of 13 similar high-level laboratories across the nation funded by the National Institutes of Health to begin researching important infectious diseases. The lab houses the Rocky Mountain Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is a multi-disciplinary intellectual collaboration of researchers from Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The Regional Center of Excellence focuses on zoonotic emerging diseases, which are animal diseases that are transmissible to humans.

The university is a world leader in researching West Nile virus, drug-resistant tuberculosis, yellow fever, dengue, hantavirus, plague, tularemia and other diseases.

In 2007, the university unveiled the business support arm of the infectious disease Supercluster, called MicroRx, to expedite efforts to transfer research into the commercial marketplace. Lyons will join CSU just days before the university unveils a new building on its Foothills Campus that is devoted to pairing research with businesses to speed quality of life improving innovations and vaccines, tests and preventative medicine for diseases, including infectious diseases, into the marketplace. That building, the Research Innovation Center, celebrates its opening May 11 and features research and business development space for start-up companies and existing companies partnering with CSU on developing products.

Lyons will build on Smith’s vision for the Infectious Disease Research Center and Supercluster to continue as world-class leaders in infectious disease research, education, technology transfer and outreach and continue to draw the best scientists, staff and students from the academia and serve as a magnet for commercial development by private sector partners.

“I am very excited that Rick Lyons will lead infectious disease research at CSU,” said Smith, an infectious disease professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “His training and experience in infectious diseases are ideal for bringing enthusiasm, knowledge and vigor to the program. He has served as a consultant and committee member of several critical national groups dealing with infectious diseases, and he brings with him national leadership in the field.”