Mark Fraser, MD/PhD student through the IU School of Medicine and the University of Notre Dame, member of the Lee lab, and recent Eck Institute for Global Health Fellow, discusses his area of research and experiences in the Master of Science of Global Health program.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your area of study. How and when did you first become interested in the field?
A: I am an M.D./Ph.D. student with a Master of Science in Global Health focusing my study on molecular virology and drug development. I have always been interested in medicine and became fascinated with infectious diseases in high school and the beginning of college as I learned about specific ways infectious diseases make us sick. Viruses stood out in my mind as simple, efficient, and relatively poorly understood. Given the few treatment options and deadly nature of many viruses I decided to pursue research understanding how viruses work and developing treatments for viruses.
Q: What are you currently working on, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
A: My two main projects focus on developing an anti-viral therapies. The first is a drug in the FDA approval process intended to be broad spectrum, targeting a number of conserved host cell targets, which has been shown to inhibit a number of lipid-enveloped viruses by >/=99% (including to date HIV, Chikungunya virus, Ebola virus, and Zika virus). The second is a trans-splicing group I Intron that has shown suppression of HIV at >99% and is intended to be used as a “curative therapy” that would eliminate the need for patients with HIV to take daily therapies and reduce their viral load to below detectable levels. My overall goal is to create highly effective therapies that can be delivered to patients at a reasonable cost so that the burden and mortality of these diseases can be significantly reduced.
Q: What is your most memorable experience at Notre Dame and why?
A: My most memorable experience at Notre Dame was the Master of Science in Global Health I completed here. The program allowed me to gain international experience in research and medicine in Uganda where I was also able to use my free time to see mountain gorillas.
Q: Do you have any plans for the future? If so, what are they?
A: My future plans are to do residency in internal medicine followed by fellowships in infectious disease and pulmonary/critical care with a focus on therapy development and clinical research. After completing this additional training, I would like to work as a critical care physician and lead a research group focusing on novel therapies and treatments for infectious diseases, with a focus on high mortality viruses. To this end, I would then be able to care for and administer novel anti-virals during time of virus outbreaks or to treat endemic infections. In addition, if possible, I would like to eventually start an international not-for-profit focused on developing novel therapies and producing necessary lifesaving drugs such as insulin, broad spectrum anti-biotics, and blood pressure medications at significantly reduced costs to provide lower income patients with extremely affordable options so that income does not dictate survival.
Q: Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself, or something you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: In my free time I love to travel and camp. I also enjoy rock climbing, sailing, and skiing.