David S. Stephens


Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine

Stephen W. Schwarzmann Distinguished Professor of Medicine

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology

Emory University School of Medicine


Interim Dean
Emory University School of Medcine

Vice President for Research
Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center


Our laboratory is focused on genetic determinants of bacterial pathogenesis in Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae (important causes of meningitis and bacteremia) and other bacterial pathogens, on the discovery and development of bacterial vaccines and on the activation of the human innate immune system by bacterial ligands.  These studies include the molecular mechanisms of attachment, colonization and invasion of human mucosal surfaces by pathogenic bacteria; conjugative transposons and role of transposons in bacterial virulence and antibiotic resistance; and microbial ligand structure and the interactions with Toll-like receptors.  We have examined the genetic, structural and pathogenic basis of meningococcal lipopoly(oligo)saccharide and meningococcal capsule and the role these ligands play in MD-2, TLR4 and TLR2 signaling.  We are also dissecting the role of pneumococcal efflux pumps in antibiotic resistance, and we are using whole genome and transcriptome data to unlock mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis and human conjugate vaccines.  A better understanding of how pathogenic bacteria cause disease and engage the immune system is needed for new strategies for the design of vaccines and vaccine adjuvants that will protect against serious bacterial infections.

Research Topics