2019 O’Donnell Award in Science: Julie Pfeiffer, Ph.D.

Nov 2018

Jordan Orange

Julie Pfeiffer of UT Southwestern Awarded for Groundbreaking Work on Viruses and Bacteria

Julie Pfeiffer, Ph.D., of UT Southwestern Medical Center is the recipient of the 2019 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science from TAMEST (The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas).

Dr. Pfeiffer’s groundbreaking work is re-defining how we think about life-threatening viral infections. She has discovered new ways that bacteria in the body can affect whether or not we get sick from viruses. Her research has shown that viruses in the gut rely on intestinal bacteria to infect us, resulting in a new discipline in microbiology. Thanks to her work, we now know that antibiotics can have antiviral effects, which is already driving research into new treatments for viruses.

“She has opened up a whole new way and platform for using antibacterial drugs to fight viral infections,” says Kim Orth, Ph.D., W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research and Earl A. Forsythe Chair in Biomedical Science at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “She’s a very valuable part of UT Southwestern Medical Center and the collaborations happening here.”

Dr. Pfeiffer holds the Kern and Marnie Wildenthal President’s Research Council Professorship in Medical Science at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“The TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards highlight the groundbreaking research taking place in Texas,” says TAMEST President Gordon England. “The discoveries by these researchers are advancing science and improving lives. TAMEST is proud to celebrate Dr. Pfeiffer for her achievements.”

Interview opportunities with Dr. Pfeiffer are available. Please contact:

Deborah Wormser

Manager, Research Communications

Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs

UT Southwestern Medical Center

(214) 648-9355


Research Highlights

Julie Pfeiffer uses the power of model viruses, such as poliovirus, to explore fundamental processes that influence infection. Her work with poliovirus has revealed important and sometimes surprising factors that influence infection for a variety of viruses. Three years after starting her lab at UT Southwestern, Julie found that intestinal microbiota were being hijacked by polioviruses, thereby enabling efficient viral replication and pathogenesis. Unexpectedly and importantly, she discovered that antibiotics, normally used for bacterial infections, can have antiviral effects. She went on to define the molecular mechanisms involved in this parasitic behavior. These seminal studies established a new field called virus-microbiota interactions. Her ongoing work ranges from examining how bacterial metabolites influence viral infection to how specific bacteria drive evolution and emergence of novel viral strains.

2019 TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Recipients:

  • Medicine: Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., Ph.D., Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern
  • Engineering: Hal S. Alper, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin
  • Science: Julie Pfeiffer, Ph.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Technology Innovation: Terrence F. Alger II, Ph.D., Southwest Research Institute

About the O’Donnell Awards:

Over $1 million has been awarded to more than 50 recipients in the categories of medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation since the inception of the O’Donnell awards in 2006. The awards are named in honor of Edith and Peter O’Donnell, who are among Texas’ staunchest advocates for excellence in scientific advancement and STEM education. Read moreabout the 2019 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards recipients.

The recipients will be honored during the O’Donnell Awards dinner and reception on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, at the TAMEST Annual Conference: Neuroscience and Brain Health. The conference takes place January 14–16, 2019, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort outside of Austin, Texas. Media are encouraged to attend the ceremony and the conference.


TAMEST(The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas) is the state’s premier scientific organization, bringing together Texas’ best and brightest scientists and researchers. TAMEST membership includes all Texas-based members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the state’s Nobel Laureates.




TAMEST News and Updates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Share This