Albert Ko appointed Raj and Indra Nooyi Professor of Public Health

Albert Ko
Albert Ko

Albert Ko, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist whose research has yielded critical insights into the health consequences of rapid urbanization and social inequity, has been appointed the Raj and Indra Nooyi Professor of Public Health, effective July 1.

Ko is a professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Microbial Diseases at the School of Public Health, and professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at the Yale School of Medicine. He is also an attending physician at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Before arriving at Yale in 2010, Ko lived in the city of Salvador, Brazil for 15 years and was stationed at the Brazilian Ministry of Health as a professor at Cornell, where he led a research and training program on urban health.

In his work, Ko is focused on expanding our understanding of how infectious diseases have emerged due to the expansion of urban slum settlements in Brazil and elsewhere. These efforts are exemplified by his research on leptospirosis, work that revealed the rat-borne disease as the cause of urban epidemics. He was the first to genetically manipulate the Leptospirapathogen and identify virulence factors, which has led to licensed rapid diagnostic tests and vaccine and therapeutic candidates. He developed novel approaches that combine epidemiology, ecology, and modeling to delineate the interactions between climate, poor environment, and social marginalization which drive urban transmission. This research has translated into interventions that have led to significant reductions of disease in Brazil.

He has used the same paradigm to respond to a range of urban health threats, such as vaccine preventable diseases, Zika and dengue, that have emerged as consequences of rapid urbanization and social inequity. Ko and his research team, which were working at the epicenter of the Zika pandemic, provided some of the key initial insights on the emergence of congenital Zika syndrome. His long-term prospective studies yielded a detailed examination of the transmission dynamics of Zika virus and seminal insights into the role that cross flavivirus species immune protection and enhancement play in host susceptibility.

Ko’s most significant contribution is the training model he established to provide slum residents the capacity to mount effective research and implement solutions for the health threats in their communities.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has helped to mobilize a team at Yale to implement clinical and translational research, develop new diagnostics, and prepare cohorts for intervention trials. In April 20020, Ko was asked by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to serve with former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi ’80 as co-chair of the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group and he continues to advise the state on its COVID-19 prevention and control plan.

Kois also program director at Yale for the Fogarty Global Health Equity Scholars Program, which provides research training opportunities for U.S. and low- and middle-income post- and pre-doctoral fellows at collaborating international sites.

He completed his S.B. degree in chemistry and life sciences at MIT and his M.D. at Harvard Medical School.

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