Star Logo Wisconsin Viral Research Group

Biography of Donald R. Carrigan, Ph.D.

Director of Clinical Laboratory, Wisconsin Viral Research Group

Donald Carrigan became a research scientist in August 1970 when he boarded an airplane in Dallas, Texas for a flight to Los Angeles, California. He was embarking on a career path that would take him from undergraduate studies at the California Institute of Technology, doctoral graduate studies at the University of California, San Francisco, faculty appointments at the University of California, University of Maryland and the Medical College of Wisconsin and to the establishment, with his business partner Dr. Konstance Knox, of a biomedical research and certified viral diagnostic laboratory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Dr. Carrigan's interest in virology arose during his freshman year at Caltech when, as part of an assignment in a biology course, he wrote a summary and critique of a scientific article that had just been published by a junior faculty member of Caltech and a senior Caltech professor [Complex mitochondrial DNA in leukemic and normal human myeloid cells; DA Clayton and J Vinograd; PNAS 62: 1077-1084, 1969]. His paper made such an impression on the course faculty member, Professor Ray Owen, that he shared it with Professor Vinograd, who invited Mr. Carrigan to join his research program. The research project to which Mr. Carrigan was assigned involved the detailed analysis of the superhelical density characteristics of the DNA of simian virus 40 (SV40), a polyomavirus. The day-to-day supervision and technical education of Mr. Carrigan was the responsibility of one of Professor Vinograd's post-doctoral fellows, Dr. Phillip Sharp (Noble Prize in Physiology and Medicine, 1993). After two years of basic science research in Professor Vinograd's lab, Mr. Carrigan decided to take a more medically oriented career path by transferring to the laboratory of Professor Owen where he began work on rodent leukemia viruses, especially the isolation of viruses from wild mice and rats.

After graduation from Caltech, Mr. Carrigan's past interest in polyomaviruses steered him into the realm of neurovirology due to the involvement of a polyomavirus in the fatal human central nervous system disease progressive multifocal encephalopathy (PML). After weeks of surveying the scientific literature, he became interested in a series of papers from the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) by Professor Kenneth Johnson. Professor Johnson, who was a practicing neurologist at the VA Medical Center in San Francisco, in collaboration with a young researcher, Donald Byington, had developed an experimental model in hamsters of a uniformly fatal CNS disease in humans (subacute sclerosing panencephalitis [SSPE]) caused by a persistent infection of the brain by measles virus. In a letter to Professor Johnson, Mr. Carrigan expressed his interest in the model and asked several questions as to the proposed mechanisms of the measles virus persistence, especially the immunologic avoidance associated with the persistence. The letter led to an invitation to visit the VA in San Francisco and meet with Professor Johnson. Subsequently, Mr. Carrigan was accepted as a doctoral graduate student in the Experimental Pathology Program in the Department of Pathology at UCSF with Professor Johnson serving as his mentor and major professor. During the course of his graduate studies, Mr. Carrigan not only contributed to the understanding of the hamster-SSPE model (1,2) but also developed an experimental model with a striking similarity to multiple sclerosis (MS) (3) that involved infection of hamsters with a naturally occurring but unusual variant of measles virus (4,5,6).

Following a post-doctoral fellowship with neuropatholgist Professor J. Richard Baringer in the Department of Neurology at UCSF, Dr. Carrigan accepted an offer to join Professor Johnson's faculty at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore (UMAB)where Dr. Johnson had become chairman of the Department of Neurology. Holding the rank of Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology with an adjunct Assistant Professorship in the Department of Microbiology, Dr. Carrigan established his research laboratory using funds from a major grant from the NIH which he held jointly with Professor Johnson. This grant allowed Dr. Carrigan to continue working on the hamster model of SSPE (7,8,9).

In addition to his research activities, Dr. Carrigan became involved with teaching in both the medical and graduate schools at UMAB. His adjunct faculty position in the Department of Microbiology allowed him to participate in the medical school's major Microbiology course as a lecturer in Virology and as a leader of medical student sections (10,11). In addition, Dr. Carrigan organized and taught a major course in Medical and Basic Virology in the UMAB graduate program (12). These teaching activities continued through Dr. Carrigan's stay at UMAB.

In 1986, Dr. Carrigan received an RO1 research grant from the NIH which allowed him to continue his work on SSPE. However, over the years he had gradually become disillusioned with the basic science nature of the work since it was pulling him farther and farther from medical virology which was his main long-term interest. His new grant made it possible for him to begin seriously  looking for a new opportunity at another institution. In response to an advertisement for a position at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) in Milwaukee, he submitted his curriculum vitae to the appropriate search committee at MCW. To Dr. Carrigan, the most intriguing aspect of the MCW position was that it involved becoming the director of a Clinical Virology lab that had been formed to support a relatively new bone marrow transplantation program. MCW's response was positive and in May of 1987, Dr. Carrigan assumed his new positions as an Assistant Professor of Pathology at MCW and Director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory of in the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.

Over the years, MCW expanded the bone marrow transplant program, as well as the other solid organ transplantation programs, and his position as Director of the Virology Laboratory allowed Dr. Carrigan to become deeply involved in virtually all of these programs. He was asked to serve on the transplantation committees of the MCW bone marrow transplant, heart, transplant, lung transplant and liver/kidney transplant programs. In addition, he was asked to serve on the transplant committee of the pediatric heart transplant program at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and provided frequent consults for the physicians involved in the MCW/Milwaukee County HIV/AIDS Program. His expanding experience with the clinical manifestations of viral infections in immunocompromised patients was both exciting and productive, leading to the publication of numerous clinically oriented papers (13-17).

Please find more information in Dr. Carrigan's Biosketch (PDF).

Reference List

  1. Carrigan DR, McKendall RR, and Johnson KP. (1978). CNS disease following dissemination of SSPE measles virus from intraperitoneal inoculation of suckling hamsters. J Med Virol 2:347-357.
  2. Carrigan DR and Johnson KP. (1981). A mathematical model for the hemolysin of measles virus. J Virol Meth 3:71-82.
  3. Carrigan DR and Johnson KP. (1980). Chronic relapsing myelitis in hamsters associated with experimental measles virus infection. Proc Natl Acad Sci 77:4297-4300.
  4. Carrigan DR. (1985). Round cell variant of measles virus: Spontaneous conversion from productive to cell-associated state of infection. Virology 144:337-350.
  5. Carrigan DR. (1986). Round cell variant of measles virus: Neurovirulence and pathogenesis of acute encephalitis in newborn hamsters. Virology 148:349-359.
  6. Carrigan DR. (1986). Round cell variant of measles virus: Mechanisms involved in the establishment of defective viral infection of the central nervous system. Virology 155:614-624.
  7. Carrigan DR. (1987). Chronic, relapsing encephalomyelitis associated with experimental measles virus infection. J Med Virol 21:223-230.
  8. Carrigan DR and Kabacoff CM. (1987). Nonproductive, cell-associated virus exists before the appearance of antiviral antibodies in experimental measles encephalitis. Virology 156:185-188.
  9. Carrigan DR and Kabacoff CM. (1987). Identification of a nonproductive cell-associated form of measles virus by its resistance to inhibition by recombinant human interferon. J Virology 61:1919-1926.
  10. 1981-1987: Lecturer; Sophomore Microbiology Course, Medical Microbiology (MMIC 520), University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  11. 1981-1987: Group Instructor; Freshman Neuroscience Course, Neuroscience I, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  12. 1981-1987: Primary Instructor; Graduate Course in Virology, Advanced Animal Virology (MMIC 801), University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  13. Biggs DD, Toorkey BC, Carrigan DR, Hanson GA, and Ash RC. (1990). Disseminated ECHO virus infection complicating bone marrow transplantation. Amer J Med 88:421-425.
  14. Carrigan DR and Waltrip RW. (1990). Viral theories of schizophrenia. Curr Opin Psychiatry 3:14-18.
  15. Flomenberg P, Babbitt J, Drobyski WR, Ash RC, Carrigan DR, Sedmak GV, McAuliffe T, Camitta B, Horowitz MM, Bunin N and Casper JT. (1994). Increasing incidence of adenovirus disease in bone marrow transplant recipients. J Infect Dis 169:775-781.
  16. Casper JT, Sedmak G, Harris RE, Carrigan DR, Baxter-Lowe LA, Ash RC. (1992). Intravenous immunoglobulin: Use in pediatric bone marrow transplantation. Semin Hematology 29:100-105.
  17. Flomenberg P, Balliet K, Bernstein B, Gutierrez E, and Carrigan DR. (1995). High specificity of hepatitis C second generation enzyme immunoassay in HIV infected patients. J Acquired Immune Defic Syndr and Hum Retrovirol 9:97-98.