John Galgiani, MD, a professor of medicine and immunobiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, received the 2023 AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Arizona Bioindustry Association for his role in furthering our understanding and management of Valley fever.
“Receiving the AZBio Pioneer Award is a great honor, and I think it underscores the growing awareness across Arizona of the importance that Valley fever has for its impact on public health,” said Galgiani, who founded the Valley Fever Center for Excellence in 1996 and continues to serve as director.
Valley fever is an infection caused by the inhalation of Coccidioides fungal spores. The most common symptoms include cough, fatigue, chest pain, fever, rash, headache, joint aches and night sweats. Because these symptoms can be caused by other illnesses, a specific laboratory test is needed to identify Valley fever in patients.
A member of the BIO5 Institute, Galgiani said his current research priority is to “move the vaccine, already on its way to prevent Valley fever in dogs, to a human vaccine.” He is also interested in the immunogenetics, which aim to understand why some people do not get sick following infection while others are severely affected by the disease. “This is long-term and complicated research but could lead to a genetic test to inform patients about their future risk if they were to be infected,” he said.
The AZBio Association has been supportive of Galgiani’s Valley fever efforts. “In trying to develop a possible cure for Valley fever with a drug called nikkomycin Z, I was co-founder of a company called Valley Fever Solutions, which joined the association. The AZBio Association was very supportive of our attempts to find funding. Now, with the University of Arizona-invented Valley fever vaccine headed towards a veterinary application by Anivive Lifesciences, that company has also joined the association.”
Galgiani also founded the Valley Fever Collaborative, a University of Arizona Health Sciences-led partnership with Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, which launched last year to facilitate collaboration in fighting the disease.
“Collaboration is a wonderful thing. We formed the Valley Fever Collaborative to create the marketplace in the forum for collaborations across the entire state. This collaboration means there’s momentum that will continue,” he said.
“The growing number of people working on Valley fever is very gratifying and ultimately should be very good for patients,” said Galgiani.
The Arizona Bioindustry Association supports life science innovation and innovators. It aims to advance life-changing and life-saving health innovation in Arizona and globally. The AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement is the highest honor awarded by Arizona’s bioscience community to a person whose body of work improves the lives of others. The award was presented to Galgiani during the AZBio Awards in Phoenix on Sept. 27, which celebrates Arizona’s leading educators, innovators and companies during Arizona Bioscience Week.