Investiture Ceremony to Award Robert K. Ernst, PhD
The Dr. Paul and Mrs. Jean Corcoran Endowed Professorship
May 24, 2021
About Dr. Ernst
Robert K. Ernst serves as professor and vice chair in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD), and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) School of Medicine and the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Maryland, College Park. A senior scientist, since arriving at UMSOD in 2008, he has received more than $14 million in research funding from agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S Department of Defense, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
A co-founder of Pataigin LLC, a rapid lipid-based diagnostic and antimicrobial resistance platform, Dr. Ernst also is currently in discussions to establish a Maryland-based startup for the commercialization of novel adjuvants using patented technologies developed at his UMB laboratory.
The focus of his work is to understand the molecular basis by which microbial pathogens modify the lipid component of their membrane and how these alterations affect or circumvent normal host innate immune system response.
Dr. Ernst’s research into high abundance membrane lipids at Pataigin LLC shows the ability to rapidly detect and identify infectious bacterial and fungal agents using the pathogen’s unique lipid composition. The unique lipid diversity constitutes a “chemical barcode or fingerprint” that can be used to identify pathogens by mass spectrometry profiling as well as determine resistance patterns of antibiotic and antimicrobial peptides from clinically obtained patient samples. Ultimately, treatment plans tailored to specific infection profiles should translate to faster patient recovery times, decreased complications, and decreased morbidity and mortality.
Dr Ernst’s research has resulted in nearly 160 peer-reviewed articles that have appeared in high-impact scientific journals, including: Science, Nature, Molecular Microbiology, and PLOS Pathogens. His body of publications has resulted in more than 14,000 citations. In addition, Dr. Ernst has written three book chapters focused on lipopolysaccharides. The translational importance of this science is also reflected in his portfolio of more than 15 awarded or pending patents.
In addition, Dr. Ernst has given a number of presentations at national and international meetings, including the American Society for Microbiology, the North American Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and the Biannual International Endotoxin and Innate Immunity Society.
In recognition of his work, Dr. Ernst was named UMB’s 2017 Founders Week Researcher of the Year, as well as UMB’s 2019 Founders Week Entrepreneur of the Year. Additionally, he is the recipient of the 2018 Dr. Mark E. Shirtliff, PhD, Student Mentor Award (UMB Graduate Program) and the 2021 University System of Maryland (USM) Regents’ Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Research, or Creative Activity, the highest honor presented by the USM Board of Regents to exemplary faculty members.