Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health
Education and Training
Stanford University, B.S., A.B.(Biological Sciences-Honors; Philosophy-History and Philosophy of Science) 2001
University of Pittsburgh Medical Scientist Training Program, Ph.D. (Immunology), 2008; M.D., 2010
Johns Hopkins University Bayview Medical Center, Internal Medicine Residency, 2014
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Adult Infectious Diseases Fellowship (ABIM Research Pathway), 2018
Vaccinology Fellowship (NIH T32) University of Maryland Center for Vaccine Development 2016-2018
I have approached science and medicine with the aim of addressing gaps in our ability to effectively prevent or treat infectious diseases. During my Ph.D., in the laboratory of Jay Kolls, I studied how antibodies and cell wall carbohydrate antigens are involved in host defense pathways against fungal infections. My Ph.D. thesis led to the discovery that natural IgM antibodies against conserved fungal carbohydrates link innate and adaptive immune host defense mechanisms against fungal pathogens. In my Vaccinology fellowship, in the laboratory of Marcelo Sztein, we have studied how biologic differences between the major strains of invasive Salmonella impact T cell memory immune responses in humans. These studies have involved use of samples derived from a controlled challenge infection with Salmonella Typhi in human volunteers.
There are no vaccines against some of the most important strains of invasive Salmonella, and there is increasing antimicrobial resistance against these infections. I am interested in how innate and adaptive immune responses intersect in humans, and how improved understandings of the very earliest steps in innate immune programming , by cells specializing in the recognition and processing of bacteria, could help us design better vaccines against invasive Salmonella. A project focusing on early human immune cell programming against invasive non-typhoidal Salmonella is the focus of my NIAID K08 Career Development Award.
I am currently site Principal Investigator for the NIAID Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT), which investigated different agents for potential benefit in the treatment of COVID-19 among patients hospitalized with moderate or severe COVID-19. Additionally I am a Co-Investigator on COVID-19 mRNA vaccine trials and an adjuvanted COVID-19 protein vaccine.
I am also an Infectious Diseases Attending at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where I help to care for adult patients suffering from a variety of different infectious diseases.
Rapaka RR, Hammershaimb EA, Neuzil KM. Are some COVID vaccines better than others? Interpreting and comparing estimates of efficacy in trials of COVID-19 vaccines. Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Mar 6:ciab213. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciab213. Epub ahead of print.
Rapaka RR, Ricks DM, Alcorn JF, Chen K, Khader SA, Zheng M, Plevy S, Bengten E, Kolls JK. Conserved natural IgM antibodies mediate innate and adaptive immunity against the opportunistic fungus Pneumocystis murina. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2010;207(13):2907-19. (Faculty 1000 rating-10- Exceptional)
Rapaka RR, Dai G, Zheng M, and Kolls JK. CD4+ T Cell Regulation of Antibodies Cross-Reactive with Fungal Cell Wall-Associated Carbohydrates after Pneumocystis murina Infection. Infection and Immunity. 2019;87(7).
Rapaka RR, Fischer M, Finucane TE, and Mwakingwe A. Bigger Foot: Kaposi's Sarcoma. American Journal of Medicine. 2015;128(9):959-62.
Gopal R, Rapaka RR, and Kolls JK. Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome associated with pulmonary pathogens. European Respiratory Review. 2017;26(143).
Steele C, Rapaka RR, Metz A, Pop SM, Williams DL, Gordon S, Kolls JK, Brown GD. The beta-glucan receptor dectin-1 recognizes specific morphologies of Aspergillus fumigatus. PLoS Pathogens. 2005;1(4):e42.
Zheng M, Ramsay AJ, Robichaux MB, Kliment C, Crowe C, Rapaka RR, Steele C, McAllister F, Shellito JE, Marrero L, Schwarzenberger P, Zhong Q, Kolls JK. CD4+ T cell-independent DNA vaccination against opportunistic infections. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2005;115(12):3536-44
Additional Publication Citations
Rapaka RR, Goetzman ES, Zheng M, Vockley J, McKinley L, Kolls JK, Steele C. Enhanced defense against Pneumocystis carinii mediated by a novel dectin-1 receptor Fc fusion protein. J Immunol. 2007;178(6):3702-12.
Mattila PE, Metz AE, Rapaka RR, Bauer LD, and Steele C. Dectin-1 Fc targeting of aspergillus fumigatus beta-glucans augments innate defense against invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2008;52(3):1171-2.
Rapaka RR, and Kolls JK. Pathogenesis of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in cystic fibrosis: current understanding and future directions. Med Mycol. 2009;47 Suppl 1:S331-7.
Zheng M, Rapaka RR, Yu AC, Shellito JE, and Kolls JK. Role of interleukin-23-dependent antifungal immune responses in dendritic cell-vaccinated mice. Infect Immun. 2011;79(9):3778-83.
Clinical Specialty Details
Adult Infectious Diseases. I have attended on the General, Medical ICU, and Surgical Infectious Diseases Services at UMMC.
ABIM certification Internal Medicine 2016, Diplomate
ABIM certification Infectious Diseases 2017, Diplomate
Awards and Affiliations
2006-2010 Ruth L Kirschstein NIH F30 National Research Service Award
2008 American Association of Immunologists Trainee Abstract Award
2014 Chief Residents Profiles In Excellence Award, American College of Physicians Maryland Chapter
2019 UMB Institute for Clinical and Translational Research Voucher Award
2019 Passano Foundation Clinician-Scientist Award
Grants and Contracts
2019-present: NIAID-NIH Mentored Clinical Scientist K08 Career Development Award: "Human Cellular Immune Programming Against Invasive Salmonella"
In the News
“COVID-19 Vaccines: Where do we stand?” Speaker for the Pan-American Trauma Society Webinar on COVID-19: Latest Updates Regarding Treatment, Research, Vaccines. August 12, 2020
“Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial” Speaker. University of Maryland School of Medicine Grand Rounds. October 21, 2020.
“Therapeutics and Vaccines for COVID-19” Speaker for the Maryland Society of Pathologists Fall Seminar. October 24, 2020
“Vaccine Safety: Science vs Fear” Today with Dr. Kaye. Guest. December 10, 2020
“COVID-19 in Maryland: Help is on the way” Today with Dr. Kaye. Guest. January 11, 2021
“Understanding COVID-19 vaccines” The Bahamian Association of the Washington, DC & Mid-Atlantic Region. Panelist. Jan 31, 2021
“Coronavirus vaccines and you” AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall. Panelist. Feb 25, 2021
“Vaccines, Variants and Coping” AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall. Panelist. May 6, 2021
Memberships: American Association of Immunologists, Society for Mucosal Immunology, Infectious Diseases Society of America, American Society for Microbiology