Breakthrough Discovery Symposium I

Rodrigo Morales, Ph.D.
Department of Neurology
Chair, Breakthrough Discovery Symposium I


Rachel Sirianni, Ph.D.
Department of Neurosurgery


J. Christian Perez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
“Fungi of the human gut microbiota: Roles and significance”

Dr. J. Christian Perez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at McGovern Medical School. He received his Ph.D. degree in Molecular Genetics and Genomics at Washington University in St. Louis, studying mechanisms of gene regulation in enteric bacteria. Dr. Pérez started investigating human fungal pathogens during his postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco. He then moved to Germany to establish his own laboratory at the University Hospital Wuerzburg. Dr. Pérez joined the faculty at UTHealth in November 2020. His laboratory seeks to understand the interplay between mammalian host and Candida albicans, a ubiquitous fungus of humans that inhabits the gastrointestinal tract but that also causes thousands of disseminated, life-threatening infections in the United States every year.

Anilkumar Pillai, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
“Complement system, stress and neurobehavior”

Anilkumar Pillai, Ph.D., is a Professor, the Louis A. Faillace Chair in Psychiatry, and Director of the Pathophysiology of Neuropsychiatric Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He is also a translational neuroscience researcher with a longstanding research program geared toward understanding the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders that could lead to the development of novel treatment strategies. His current research aims at understanding the mechanisms of complement immune activation in depression and suicide. His laboratory uses in vitro cell culture models, animal models, and human postmortem brain and peripheral tissues. He is the recipient of several federal and non-federal grants and contracts, including current and active awards from NIH and the Department of Veteran Affairs. He serves on grant review committees, NIH study sections, and journal editorial boards. He is a well-published author, co-author of more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, several book chapters, and abstracts. Pillai is an elected member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He has an extensive record of training graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty.