Center for Vaccine Research

Kelly Stefano Cole, PhD

  • Associate Professor
  • Immunology

Dr. Cole is an Associate Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and Microbiology. After receiving her Ph.D. in Immunology in 1994 from the University of Pennsylvania, she came to Pittsburgh as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the laboratory of Dr. Ronald Montelaro. She was promoted Research Instructor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, followed by recruitment to the Department of Medicine, Infectious Diseases as Assistant Professor with the award of her first R01 in 2001. In 2007 Dr. Cole was recruited to the CVR as the Associate Director of the RBL where she was instrumental in the commissioning, startup, daily management and operation of the RBL until 2016. Her research interest is on the development of animal models for vulnerable populations, and the characterization of immune responses for evaluation of vaccines and therapeutics against emerging respiratory pathogens in these models.

Representative Publications

  • Scanga CA, Lopresti BJ, Tomko J, Frye LJ, Coleman TM, Fillmore D, Carney JP, Lin PL, Flynn JL, Gardner CL, Sun C, Klimstra WB, Ryman KD, Reed DS, Fisher DJ, Cole KS. In vivo imaging in an ABSL-3 Regional Biocontainment Laboratory. Path and Dis 2014;71(2): 207-212. PMID: 24838691
  • Cole KS, Smith RE. Successful leadership for a high-containment facility. In: “Management Principles for Building and Operating Biocontainment Facilities: Ten Years of Planning and Management Lessons Learned.” 2013; Tradeline, Inc.; Cole KS, Fisher DJ, Westfall S eds. pp 35-42.
  • Hartman, AH, Homer LC, Cole KS. Verification of inactivation methods for removal of biological materials from a biosafety level 3 select agent facility. Applied Biosafety 2012; 17:70-75.
  • Reed DS, Smith L, Dunsmore T, Trichel A, Ortiz L, Cole KS, Barry E. Pneumonic tularemia in rabbits resembles the human disease as illustrated by radiographic and hematological changes after infection. PLOS One 2011;.6 (9):e24654.
  • Homer LC, Heflin DT, Manning CR, Cole KS. Engineering and work place controls for the use of anesthetic gases during BSL-3 rabbit studies. Applied Biosafety 2011; 16:167-176 (received Richard C. Knudsen Memorial Publication Award).
  • Kuhrt DM, Faith SA, Leone A, Sodora DL, Picker LK, Borghesi L, Cole KS. Naïve and memory B cells in the rhesus macaque can be differentiated by surface expression of CD27 and have differential responses to CD40 ligation. J Immunol Methods. 2011 Jan 5;363(2):166-76. Epub 2010 Sep 24. PMID:20875419
  • Faith SA, Wu Y, Kuhrt DM, Steckbeck JD, Craigo JK, Clements JE, Cole, KS. Induction of antibody mediated neutralization in SIVmac239 by a naturally acquired V3 mutation. Virology. 2010 Apr 25;400(1):86-92. Epub 2010 Feb 11. PMID:20153009[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  • Kuhrt D, Faith SA, Leone A, Rohankedkar M, Sodora DL, Picker LJ, Cole KS. Evidence of early B-cell dysregulation in simian immunodeficiency virus infection: rapid depletion of naïve and memory B-cell subsets with delayed reconstitution of the naïve B-cell population. J Virol. 2010 Mar;84(5):2466-76. Epub 2009 Dec 23. PMID:20032183[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article
  • Kuhrt DM, Faith SA, Leone A, Picker L, Sodora D, Cole KS Evidence of early B cell dysregulation in SIV infection: Rapid depletion of naïve and memory B cell subsets with delayed reconstitution of the naïve B cell population. J Virol 2009; 84:2466-2476.
  • Bright RA, Carter DM, Crevar C, Toapanta FR, Steckbeck JD, Cole KS, Kumar N, Pushko P, Tumpey T, Smith G, Ross TM. Cross-clade protective immune responses to influenza viruses with H5N1 HA and NA elicited by an influenza virus-like particle. PLOS One 2008Jan 30;3(1):e1501.

Research Interests

Dr. Cole’s research focuses on the development of animal models for evaluation of vaccines and therapeutics for emerging respiratory pathogens; these include the development of animal models for vulnerable populations for influenza, with an emphasis on identifying potential differences in pathogenicity and virulence associated with morbidity and mortality in influenza infection during pregnancy, and understanding underlying differences in pathogenicity and vaccine efficacy in pediatric, elderly and obese populations. Prior to working on influenza, her lab focused on understanding the role of humoral immune responses to HIV/SIV and emerging infections, and she is nationally recognized for research in the HIV/SIV vaccine and pathogenesis field for her work on understanding the maturation of antibody responses to HIV and SIV envelope proteins and its association with the development of protective immunity. These studies were extended into defining mechanisms of antibody-mediated neutralization and other functional antibody responses in the control of infection and disease progression, and more recently in evaluating the effects of acute and chronic SIV infection on the B cell compartment, with the goal of defining and characterizing specific B cell subsets that may be critical to the control of virus replication and protection against disease. Dr. Cole has also been instrumental in the biosafety community at the University of Pittsburgh, serving initially on the Biohazards Committee where she helped to develop institutional policy. She has served for the last 15 years on the Institutional Biosafety Committee as a member, the Vice-Chair and, since 2015, the Chair. Dr. Cole was instrumental in the design, construction/ commissioning and operation of several BSL-3 laboratories, including the RBL, and has become a recognized scientific expert in the operation and management of high containment laboratories. From 2008-2016 she served as the Co-Director of the NIH NBL/RBL Network Directors Group and leader of the Network's Steering Committee. She has been involved in many working groups to evaluate biosafety and science regulatory policy, including the NSABB, COGR and NIH.