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Joseph (Alex) Duncan, MD, PhD, is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member and Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Assistant Professor
UNC-Chapel Hill

Area of Interest

The research activities of my lab focus on the role of host inflammatory signaling in infectious disease pathogenesis. Many of our studies delve into the molecular mechanisms of inflammatory signaling by a nucleotide binding proteins known as NOD-Like Receptors or NLR proteins. My lab has particularly emphasized studies of NLRP3, which induces activation of caspase-1 and maturation of the cytokine IL-1β response to microbial pathogens and sterile danger signals. We have developed a great interest in the role that signaling by these proteins plays in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases with projects studying the activation of this signaling system in S. aureus and N. gonorrhoeae infections.

A second focus of study in our laboratory is on the pathogenesis of N. gonorrhoeae infection, particularly how this pathogen evades the development of protective immune responses and retains the capacity to re-infect the same host. Combined our studies have begun to understand the complex relationship between innate immune responses to N. gonorrhoeae and protective immunity to the pathogen.

Our lab utilizes a broad range of biomedical research methods to address:

  1. Detailed biochemical analysis of isolated proteins involved in inflammatory signaling
  2. Microbiologic experiments utilizing genetic manipulation of pathogenic bacteria to study virulence
  3. Cell biologic experiments with cultured immune cells
  4. Utilization of murine models of infectious diseases, and
  5. Use of a specimens from human subjects and a unique human challenge model for N. gonorrhoeae infection

Awards and Honors

  • 2008 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists
  • 2007 Sexually Transmitted Infection and Topical Microbicide Cooperative Research Center Developmental Award
  • 2006 K12 Scholar – UNC Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Career Developmental Program
  • Biochemical Characterization of Monarch-1, a Regulator of Signaling within the Innate Immune System
  • 2004 Pfizer Fellowship in Infectious Diseases
  • 2002 David A. Ontjes Award (Outstanding UNC Internal Medicine Intern, 2001-2002)
  • 2000 Alpha Omega Alpha appointment
  • 1998 UT Southwestern Graduate School Deans Discretionary Award
  • 1997 Alfred Gilman Memorial Award for Excellence in Research
  • 1997 Twenty-Ninth Annual Sigma Xi Graduate Student Research Forum Poster Award: S-Acylation of Heterotrimeric G Protein Alpha Subunits
  • 1996 Haberect Wildhare-Idea Program Research Grant: Rapid Isolation of Small Peptide Affinity Tags

Find publications on PubMed