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LSU Today Flagship Faculty
Note: In recognition of Thomas Klei's three years of service as interim vice chancellor of Research & Economic Development and his more than 38 years of overall service to the university, here is Klei's Flagship Faculty profile that originally ran on June 26, 2009. On July 1, 2013, he will return to his research role at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.
What was your previous position and where?I was an assistant professor of biology at Millersville State College in Pennsylvania during the school year and an adjunct assistant professor of research at the University of Georgia during the summer.
What brought you to LSU?I came to the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1975, which offered me an opportunity to develop a research program. Two friends of ours from Georgia - Jack Malone and Wayne Crowell - were here and helped make the move attractive. Jack is still here.
What is your research interest?I am interested in the pathologic and immunologic responses evoked in hosts to parasites, particularly nematodes. I specifically work on human lymphatic filariasis - elephantiasis - and river blindness, which are in a group of parasitic infections considered to be neglected tropical diseases. These infections affect large portions of the world’s poorer population. On the veterinary side, I have focused on gastro-intestinal parasites of horses. The later work has also involved some more applied aspects including the development of control programs and new anthelmintic drugs in conjunction with pharmaceutical companies.
What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?Some colleagues and I at other universities have just received a five year National Institutes of Health grant to develop a vaccine against human onchocerciasis, or river blindness. I would be overjoyed to see these results extend into the next stage of development. I would like to help the research and graduate training programs in the SVM continue to grow by assisting with the acquisitions of more large multi-disciplinary, multi –investigator grants. Two years ago I inherited the responsibility of overseeing a large NIH grant, the Louisiana Biomedical Research Network, from Harold Silverman when he left the university. The grant impacts universities, students and faculty thought the state. I would like to see this grant continue and expand its reach.
What do you enjoy most about LSU?While it is trite to write I enjoy the people, the collegiality and the culture in general. I have enjoyed the opportunity to do a diversity of things within the university. I have enjoyed seeing the SVM and LSU grow academically.
What are your major accomplishments?I have been able to establish an internationally recognized parasitology laboratory supported since 1976 with extramurally funds from the WHO, NIH, USDA and others. We have added to the knowledge of the pathogenesis of human filariasis and this work continues as noted above. Some of our work on horse parasites has lead to specific control programs and quantitative methods that have become standards for experimental studies. Administratively, I have been part of a team that has positively changed the research culture of the SVM and aided in the significant increase in the school’s scholarly productivity during the past 10 years.