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Martha Alexander-Miller, PhD

Martha Alexander-Miller, PhD

Martha Alexander-Miller, PhD, is professor and chair of Microbiology & Immunology at Wake Forest School of Medicine. A leading expert in immune response, she is a key voice in immunity research, with a distinct expertise in neonatal populations.


Martha Alexander-Miller, PhD, chair of Microbiology & Immunology

Most notably, Alexander-Miller spearheads Wake Forest’s development of an influenza vaccine designed for young infants. Alexander-Miller has developed a novel approach to preclinical research to accomplish the challenging goal of developing a flu vaccine that is safe to use in infants younger than six months. This includes development of the world’s first vervet nonhuman primate neonatal nursery for translational science.

Alexander-Miller completed her PhD at Washington University in 1993 and her fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in 1997. She spent her early career pursuing functional avidity research, investigating the quality and sensitivity of the T cell. Through her research, she established that not all T cells are equally effective in vivo. Her research findings demonstrated the quality of T cells is just as important as the number for pathogen clearance.

One of Alexander-Miller’s most recent areas of work focuses on the development of an influenza vaccine that is safe to use in infants. To develop a neonatal flu vaccine with translational potential, Alexander-Miller partnered with Jay Kaplan, PhD, director of the Center for Comparative Medicine Research to develop the world’s first nonhuman primate neonatal nursery for translational science. Historically, nonhuman primates have been sparsely used for neonatal research, even though this model most closely reflects the human developmental process.

Alexander-Miller’s research interests also include the relationship between the influenza virus and secondary infections, such as bacteria, that result in pneumonia or an ear infection. She believes that the environment created by secondary infections interferes with the body’s ability to fight influenza. More effective methods to treat these secondary infections may support the body’s natural immune defenses against the influenza virus.

Alexander-Miller seeks industry partners for the development of neonatal vaccines, but is also interested in additional opportunities to work with industry on projects related to the nonhuman primate model and/or immune regulation. Her nonhuman primate neonatal nursery, she says, is an ideal way for industry to move a discovery related to infants to human trial, and her research team has the capabilities to test a wide variety of infant therapeutics in the nursery.

Martha Alexander-Miller, PhD, has over 20 years of research in adaptive immunity and infectious diseases, including:

  • T cell regulation and function
  • Vaccine development
  • Influenza and other viruses
  • Bacteria