August 6, 2013 -- Since she was a young girl, Connie Schmaljohn knew she wanted a career that involved saving lives. More than 30 years ago, she started down the professional path toward achieving that dream by becoming an Army research scientist and working on vaccines to prevent diseases not typically found in this country, but which afflict members of the military overseas.
Schmaljohn, now an internationally recognized expert on Hantaviruses and hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, uses molecular biology tools to develop and test vaccines for a range of viruses. She and the scientists in her lab use recombinant DNA, a form of artificial DNA, to take the genes out of potentially deadly viruses so they are no longer infectious.
“We like to call them next-gen vaccines,” said Schmaljohn, a senior research scientist for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Md.
Research scientists at USAMRIID were among the first to use these DNA vaccines. “We’re always in the forefront of what the technological state of the art is and then we push it further,” Schmaljohn said.
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