Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Immunology and Translational Research
Department of Infectious Diseases
College of Veterinary Medicine
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Karen Norris knew her expertise on the immune system could hold clues to help combat the virus.
“This pandemic is devastating,” said Norris, GRA Eminent Scholar in Immunology and Translational Biomedicine and a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “As a scientist, the information was coming in fast and furious, and I knew that we had to try and absorb what was going on and understand if and how we could contribute.”
Over her career, Norris has focused on understanding pulmonary diseases and how our body fights them. During the AIDS epidemic, researchers realized certain infectious agents were taking advantage of patients’ compromised immune states. That discovery led Norris to study how infections progressed in other immunocompromised individuals, such as those who are undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplants.
“We were trying to understand how we could bolster the immune response in individuals with weakened immune systems,” said Norris. “It was clear that these people were susceptible to certain ‘bad guys’—be it viruses, bacteria or fungi—that most of us can usually deal with. And that work led into understanding how other diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity can affect the immune system and contribute to the severity of infections.”
As a scientist, the information was coming in fast and furious, and I knew that we had to try and absorb what was going on and understand if and how we could contribute.