Leadership

Dr. Coleen McNamaraDr. Coleen McNamara serves as the Director of the Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research.  She is a Physician-Scientist in Cardiovascular Medicine with a long-standing interest in finding novel ways to reduce the burden of atherosclerotic morbidity and mortality in humans.  She received her BS from the Ohio State University and MD from the Medical College of Ohio.  She came to the University of Virginia in 1986 for her Internal Medicine residency training (1986-1989), Chief Residency (1989-1990), and Cardiology Research and Clinical Training (1990-1994).  She joined the faculty at UVA in 1994 and is currently Professor of Medicine in the Cardiovascular Division of the Department of Medicine.

Research

The McNamara laboratory has a long-standing interest in understanding the role of the immune system in murine and human atherosclerosis. After discovering that a single nucleotide polymorphism in the transcription factor, Id3, was associated with atherosclerosis in humans, they went on to show that Id3 is critical for regulating B cell subset distribution, migration of B cells to blood vessels, B cell production of anti-inflammatory IgM and B cell-mediated inhibition of diet-induced atherosclerosis.

More recently, they have dissected Id3-dependent and Id3-independent mechanisms regulating these key B cell functions that inhibit artery plaque buildup, implicating specific chemokine receptors and immune checkpoint molecules. They have translated these novel findings to humans allowing discovery of the human B cell subtype that produces IgM to oxidized low density lipoprotein (LDL) and demonstrated that the frequency of these protective cells in humans is increased in individuals with no to minimal coronary artery disease.

Other work in the McNamara lab involves using single cell analytic approaches and bioinformatics for precision medicine to identify those at greatest risk of cardiovascular diseases and/or to predict response to therapy. These platforms are also relevant in many other disease states linked to inflammation and immunity and they have recently pivoted to apply single cell analytic approaches in the setting of SARS-CoV2.