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Eva Harris (born August 6, 1965) is a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder and president of the Sustainable Sciences Institute. She focuses her research efforts on combating diseases that primarily afflict people in developing nations.
Harris received a BA in biochemical sciences from Harvard University in 1987 and a PhD in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1993.
After a post-doctoral fellowship and Assistant Adjunct Professorship at the University of California, San Francisco, Harris joined the faculty at UC Berkeley. There, she developed a multidisciplinary approach for studying the virology, pathogenesis, and epidemiology of dengue fever, the most prevalent mosquito-borne viral disease in humans. Harris' lab studies the mechanism of dengue virus infection of human dendritic cells. The lab is also developing a mouse model to study viral tropism and the immune response to dengue virus infection, to generate a better model of the disease. Harris' fieldwork focuses on molecular and epidemiological field studies of dengue in endemic Latin American countries, particularly in Nicaragua. Ongoing fieldwork projects include clinical and biological studies of severe dengue, a pediatric cohort study of dengue transmission in Managua, and a project on evidence-based, community-derived interventions for prevention of dengue via control of its mosquito vector. Harris is currently initiating studies of dengue pathogenesis in humans, focusing on functional characterization of antibodies and B cell memory response, host gene expression profiling, and viral factors such as quasispecies. Harris is also collaborating with investigators at the UC Berkeley College of Engineering to develop the ImmunoSensor: a novel, rapid, low-cost diagnostic device for point-of-care diagnosis of dengue and other infectious diseases. She served as co-director of the "International Training and Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases" program at the Fogarty International Center from 1997 to 2003.
She has published over 65 peer-reviewed articles.
Dengue virus research
In 2010, Harris entered into a research agreement with NanoViricides, Inc. (NNVC). Under this agreement, Harris and coworkers will evaluate the effectiveness of NanoViricides' drug candidates against various dengue viruses. Cell culture models, as well as in vivo animal studies will be employed for testing the drug candidates. The company believes that a viricidal nanoparticle under development can be expected to lead to a broad-spectrum, anti-dengue antiviral treatment, capable of attacking all four dengue virus serotypes and their variant strains. Currently, there are no approved vaccines for the prevention of dengue, nor are there drugs for treatment of dengue virus infection. The worldwide market size for an effective anti-dengue treatment may be as large as that for Hepatitis C virus treatment, or in the billions of dollars, based on current population exposure data.
Her group has developed an animal model for dengue virus infection and disease that effectively emulates the pathology seen in humans. In particular, the critical problem of the dengue virus infection, called "antibody-dependent enhancement" (ADE), is reproduced in this animal model. When a person who was previously infected with one serotype of dengue virus is later infected by a different serotype, the antibodies produced by the immune system can lead to increased severity of the second dengue infection, instead of controlling it. ADE, as a result, can lead to severe dengue disease or dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF).
Using computer modeling, the company noted that it had developed a library of small chemical ligands that bind to dengue virus envelope proteins. Using these ligands, a number of candidate viricidal nanoparticles that are capable of attacking the dengue virus have been developed. The company believes that these viricidal drug candidates mimic the natural, common attachment function by which the four different dengue virus serotypes bind to the body's host cells.
|“||We are very excited about this association with the Harris Lab [...] We will now be able to rapidly advance our anti-dengue therapeutics program.||”|
— Eugene Seymour, CEO of NanoViricides, 
While volunteering overseas, Harris noted the lack of resources available to her local peers. Knowing that the technologies and resources needed existed in the developed world, but were unavailable where they were most needed, inspired her to introduce molecular diagnostic techniques and scientific literacy in resource-poor settings. In 1997, Harris received a MacArthur Fellowship for her pioneering work over the previous ten years developing programs, and for working to build scientific capacity in developing countries to address public health and infectious disease issues. To continue and expand this work, Harris founded the Sustainable Sciences Institute in 1998, a San Francisco-based international nonprofit organization that works to improve public health in developing countries, by building local capacity for scientific research on infectious diseases. The Sustainable Sciences Institute partners with researchers in developing countries, offering assistance and mentoring to help them excel in their fields of research.
Awards and honors
- 2002 Prytanean Faculty Award for outstanding women faculty
- 2002 Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum
- 2002 national recognition award from Minister of Health in Nicaragua for contribution to scientific development
- 2001 Pew Scholar for her work on dengue pathogenesis
- 1997 MacArthur Fellows Program for her scientific capacity building work
- A Low Cost Approach to PCR: Appropriate Transfer of Biomolecular Techniques, Editor Nazreen Kadir, Oxford University Press US, 1998, ISBN 978-0-19-511926-8
- "NanoViricides Announces a Research Agreement With Leading Dengue Virus Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley". Business Wire (San Francisco, CA, USA: Berkshire Hathaway). 16 Feb 2010. Retrieved 14 Jul 2013.
- "Straight talk from... Eva Harris", Nature Medicine 13, 1132 (2007)
- "A CONVERSATION WITH Eva Harris; How the Simple Side of High-Tech Makes the Developing World Better", The New York Times, Claudia Dreifus, September 30, 2003
- "Conversations with History" Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
- Conversations with History: Making Science Accessible, with Eva Harris