Back to Health  |  More Profiles

Alexander Raikhel

Watch research video Distinguished Professor of Entomology
University of California Presidential Chair
Alexander Raikhel

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Molecular Biology of Insect Disease Vectors
  • Molecular Endocrinology
  • Molecular Immunology
  • Biomedical Research
College: Department: Affiliations: Press Release / Article: Profile:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • 2009 Member of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2009 University of California Presidential Chair
  • 2009 Fellow of Entomological Society of America
  • 2004 MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health
  • 2002 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2001 Entomological Society of America Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology

Research Summary

Understanding the molecular basis of events in the mosquito reproduction cycle linked to a blood meal and pathogen transmission; mosquito immunity; how pathogens of major human diseases, transmitted by mosquitoes, interact with their mosquito hosts.

Q&A

Q: In your opinion, what should scientific efforts be directed towards?
The improvement of human lives. Scientific efforts must be devoted to creating alternative energy sources, and there should be a dramatic improvement of diagnosis and treatment of major chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. We must do more to overcome infectious diseases. Malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS are three major contributors of mortality and suffering in the developing world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. As a nation, we must realize that without a dedicated continuous support of scientific endeavors, our and our children’s well-being cannot be sustained and improved. America must preserve its leadership in creativity by increasing funding for research and, even more importantly, by educating its children.

Q: Why are you interested in diseases caused by mosquito-borne pathogens?
The ability to prevent mosquito-borne disease is of great importance to public health. Anywhere from 300 to 500 million cases of malaria are treated annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and an estimated 1 million people die from the disease each year. Dengue Fever is an extremely serious problem in Asia, Central and South America and Northern Australia. There are 100 million cases/year of Dengue fever with over 2.5% mortality. Over 2.5 billion people are at risk of this illness. In the United States, West Nile virus has been a problem since 1999; at the peak of the epidemics in 2003 there were 9,862 cases with 264 deaths (data by the Center for Disease Control).

Q: Why do West Nile virus and Dengue fever remain such serious threats for humans in spite of rigorous research?
The major reasons are the unavailability of effective vaccines and the development of insecticide and drug resistance by the vectors and pathogens, respectively. There is an urgent need to explore every possible avenue for developing novel control strategies against these menacing mosquito-borne diseases.

Q. What was your reaction to being elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009?
I was thrilled and humbled by the honor. And I was delighted to see that the Academy recognized the importance of insect science and vector biology by honoring a researcher in this field. I am deeply grateful to members of my laboratory, past and present, who contributed to my success and recognition.
Alexander Raikhel "America must preserve its leadership in creativity by increasing funding for research and, even more importantly, by educating its children."

—Alexander Raikhel