University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Darrin Akins is in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center (OUHSC). He is a member of the American Indian Cherokee Nation and has served as Principal Investigator on two NIH/NIAID grants (one R01 and one R21). He has a strong record of national funding since joining the OUHSC faculty in 1998. Akins was a full member of the American Heart Association study section (Immunology and Microbiology section) for four years and was also a full member of the Microbiology and Infectious Disease Research Committee (MID) study section at NIAID for five years. Akins also has served ad hoc on several other study sections, including the NIH/NIAID underrepresented minority predoctoral fellowship study section. He also is a member of the Infection & Immunity editorial board. Akins has extensive administrative experience and was the Graduate College Assistant Dean at OUHSC from 2006 to 2011, where he was in charge of directing all summer undergraduate research programs on the OUHSC campus, including the INBRE summer student program.
In 2011, Akins was appointed as the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Medicine at OUHSC. Akins’ research focus is Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne infection in the United States, which is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Akins’ laboratory has shown that several borrelial genes and proteins are expressed specifically in either the tick or mammalian host environment. Microarray and functional genomic data from his laboratory have helped to identify several B. burgdorferi genes/proteins that are dramatically up-regulated during tick-feeding and host transmission. The antigenic changes which occur during mammalian infection are thought to play a key role in this organisms’ ability to persist for long periods of time in an infected mammalian host. Therefore, the major current focus of his laboratory is to identify antigens expressed exclusively in the mammalian host environment and determine their potential role in immunoevasion, host-parasite interactions during infection, and their potential role as vaccine candidates for this disease.