Get to Know Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD — Chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology

February 15, 2023 by

Mariano Garcia-Blanco

Dr. Garcia-Blanco, his wife, Leah, and son, Gabriel, on the Alaska Railroad.

Mariano Garcia-Blanco, MD, PhD was appointed chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology on January 1, 2023. Dr. Garcia-Blanco earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and his MD and PhD from Yale University. He also completed a fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Duke University. He comes to us from the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he has served as chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology since September 2014. Prior to his appointment in Texas, he was a faculty member at Duke University from 1990 to 2014.

We recently interviewed Dr. Garcia-Blanco about why he chose UVA School of Medicine and the exciting things happening in his field of RNA biology.

Q: Why did you choose the University of Virginia School of Medicine Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology (MIC)?

A: First and foremost, for the quality of the faculty and their science. I was taken by the commitment to both research and education missions, the collegiality of the department and the vision of the leadership in the School of Medicine.

Q. Why did you become an academic basic science researcher and choose your field of study?

A. I am both a basic scientist and also an applied scientist. While I was an MD PhD student at Yale University I made two critical decisions: I was not going to practice medicine and instead I would focus on making fundamental discoveries in the area of RNA biology and I would work to apply those discoveries by creating biotechnology ventures.

Q. What’s the most exciting thing happening in your field right now?

A. My field, which is RNA biology, is exploding right now – we have just confronted an existential threat in a pandemic caused by an RNA-based pathogen and have effectively controlled it (at least in the nation) using an RNA-based vaccine. The area of RNA therapeutics is upon us and will be as exciting and beneficial to the common good as protein-based therapies and approaches.

Q. What are some goals you would like to achieve during your time at UVA SOM?

A. I have two major goals while at UVA: First, to unravel the mechanistic underpinnings of the intriguing connection between RNA and immunity, which we have uncovered in our previous work at Duke and the University of Texas. A part of this goal is to take these fundamental findings and apply them for the good of society. Second, I want to make MIC one of the very best departments in the nation and the world and I want to make sure this is measured with true metrics of quality.

Q. What’s your favorite part of your job?

A. My science, my laboratory colleagues and my MIC colleagues

Q. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?


Q. How do you spend your time away from work? Hobbies?

Travel is my favorite hobby. The picture shows travel with my wife, Leah, and my son, Gabriel, on the Alaska Railroad.

Q. Who is your inspiration or hero?

A. Phillip A. Sharp



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