Stanley Division of Developmental NeurovirologyStanley Division of Developmental

People/StaffPublicationsPast Meetings & EventsDepartments/ProgramsFellowship ApplicationLaboratory Procedures


Robert H. Yolken, M.D. - Director

Dr. Yolken is a virologist who became interested in the study of serious psychiatric disease at the suggestion of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, now of the Stanley Medical Research Institute. Dr. Yolken developed many of the diagnostic assays for viral infections which are in current use. He has applied these methods for the detection of infectious agents which might be involved in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism and related disorder (see Department/Programs section of this website). He is author or coauthor of more than 250 scientific papers and several recent books, including the Manual of Clinical Microbiology and Beasts of the Earth. He also contributes to the laboratory by providing the photographs which cover the walls of the corridors and offices of the Stanley Laboratory. Some of these can be seen at

Raphael P. Viscidi, M.D. - Professor

Dr. Viscidi is a virologist, whose primary interest is human papillomavirus (HPV) and polyomaviruses (PV). These viruses are very common in human populations but rarely cause disease. HPV is the etiological agent of cervical and other anogenital cancers and a subset of oral cancers. PVs are responsible for a rare fatal brain disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, nephropathy in renal transplant recipients, and a rare skin cancer, Merkel cell cancer. Both viruses encode oncoproteins and thus are the subject of continuing investigations as causative agents in diverse human cancers.

The focus of research in Dr. Viscidi’s laboratory over the last several years has been studies of humoral immune responses to HPV and PV using virus like particles (VLP) based enzyme linked immunosorbent assays. He has conducted many cancer case control and population-based seroepidemiological studies of HPV and PV infection. His laboratory has expertise in production of virus like particles using the baculovirus expression system, and another focus of research is the development of VLP-based vaccines and studies of immunological properties of VLPs.

The laboratory is also exploring applications of a novel chimeric VLP construct, invented by Dr. Viscidi, as a platform for vaccines against cancer and infectious agents, including malaria and human immunodeficiency virus. Dr. Viscidi is also interested in the how VLP-based vaccines activate innate immune responses and is conducting studies of global gene expression in subpopulations of peripheral blood immune cells in response to VLP vaccination. Another very different area of study in the laboratory is population genetics of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and the molecular evolution of antibiotic resistance.

In collaboration with STD researchers and a molecular evolutionist, Dr. Viscidi is studying temporal trends and epidemiological correlates of the population structure of N. gonorrhoeae using massively parallel sequencing of whole bacterial genomes.

Lorraine V. Jones-Brando, Ph.D - Assistant Professor

Dr. Jones-Brando is a microbiologist working in the Stanley Laboratories. Her research revolves around the laboratory’s working theory that an infectious agent plays a crucial role in the development of serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Dr. Jones-Brando uses the tissue banks and fresh samples available to the lab (brain, CSF, blood components, throat swabs, etc.) to search by classical microbiological, molecular biological and histochemical techniques for parasites, vial particles and/or their macromolecules. In addition, she uses virus-host cell or parasite-host cell systems to study the effects of a variety of compounds, e.g., antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, plant extracts, nutraceuticals and novel synthetic compound panels, on the in vitro replication and in vivo growth of infectious agents.

Sarven Sabunciyan, Ph.D - Assistant Professor

Dr. Sabunciyan’s research focuses on identifying biomarkers for major mental disorders. Dr. Sabunciyan is currently trying to determine if SNP’s in genes involved in brain development correlate with these illnesses. He is also examining the methylation state of DNA between healthy controls and mentally ill individuals to see if there are any differences. Previously, Dr. Sabunciyan developed several ELISA assays to measure serum antibody levels of human endogenous retrovirus W antigens in schizophrenia and bipolar patients.

Emily Severance, Ph.D - Assistant Professor

Dr. Severance's research aims to understand how perinatal and subsequent exposure to certain foods and microbes might contribute to psychiatric symptoms and pathologies. Brain and behavioral abnormalities in schizophrenia, affective disorders and autism may be produced by the direct effects of food-derived peptides on the central nervous system or by an indirect activation of cellular immunity by inflammatory processes associated with dietary and microbial antigens. Both mechanisms would require an alteration of the gastrointestinal system in the disease state and an understanding of the impact of immune factors on the gut-brain axis. The ability to identify individuals who can be treated with dietary or other interventions that modulate intestinal permeability, inflammation and digestion is a primary goal of this line of research.

Emily Severance

Jian-Chun Xiao, Ph.D. - Research Associate

Dr. Xiao’s research aims to understand how Toxoplasma gondii infection is involved in the etiology of psychosis, especially schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Toxoplasma is a protozoan parasite that infects approximately ~ 25% of the world’s human population. Latent infection with Toxoplasma can specifically influence the hosts’ behavior. Previously, Dr. Xiao developed several ELISA assays to predict the strain type of infection within three dominant Toxoplasma genotypes and to distinguish active from chronic human infection. Since the central nervous system is a major site of Toxoplasma infection, Dr. Xiao has been studying the brain effect of infection using methods of cell and molecular biology, neuroimmunology, neurochemistry and imaging. The primary coal of her research is to understand the mechanisms by which Toxoplasma manipulates behaviour of its host.


Miranda Darby, PH.D – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Darby is examining RNA expression changes in host cells following Toxoplasma infection. She is especially interested in identifying the mechanism(s) whereby Toxoplasma infection can trigger epigenetic changes and affect RNA expression in the host. She earned her PhD in Molecular Biology and Genetics from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Ye Li – Visiting Postdoctoral Student

Dr. Li is working in our laboratories as part of his training from Wuhun University in China. He is working closely with Dr. Jian-Chun Xiao. One organism they are working on in regard to a role in human brain diseases is the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii. Dr. Ye is performing research with this organism in terms of the measurement of its ability to replicate in human cells and cause infection.

Emese (Prandovszky) O’Donnell, PhD - Postdoctoral fellow

Dr. O'Donnell graduated with a PhD in Clinical Bioscience from the University of Szeged, Hungary. Through her post-graduate education she has become a neurophysiologist specializing in infectious diseases. She is especially interested in host/parasite interactions as they relate to the etiology of psychiatric diseases. Her experimental approach to this investigation includes using HPLC, the Luciferase Immune Precipitation System (LIPS) and classical molecular and histological techniques in both in vitro cell culture systems as well as in vivo mouse model systems.


Claudia Bordon - Research Specialist

Ms. Bordon works with Dr. Jones-Brando in the mammalian cell and infectious agents laboratory. She maintains all cell cultures and parasite/virus stocks. Her major responsibility is the screening and further in vitro testing of drugs, plant extracts, novel synthesized compounds, etc., to determine efficacy against a variety of infectious agents, especially the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

Claudia Bordon

Bryan Deuber - Research Technician

Mr. Deuber works with Dr. Jones-Brando in the algal cell culture and virus laboratory. He maintains all algal cultures and virus stocks, providing algae and virus preparations for in vitro and in vivo testing. In addition he is responsible for processing biological samples for determination of the presence of live virus and/or anti-virus neutralizing activity.

Bryan Deuber

Kristin Gressitt - Research Technician

Ms. Gressitt works with Dr. Severance to test hypotheses regarding the role of food antigents and microbial infections in major psychiatric disorders. Ms. Gressitt uses protein- and nucleic acid-based techniques to screen a variety of biospecimens for evidence of immune and genetic alterations.

Claudia Bordon

Flora J. Leister - Research Specialist

Ms. Leister works in Dr. Yolken’s laboratory. She is currently using Brain DNA and cDNA in Real Time PCR looking for SNPs and gene expression, respectively. She also test Serum DNA for SNPs and for viral expression, as well as supplying these samples to other labs for their research.

Elizabeth Rubalcaba, Research Specialist

Ms. Rubalcaba works in Dr. Viscidi’s Laboratory. She is working on projects that involve the production of virus-like particles. She is also involved in projects to detect genetic changes in endogenous retroviral envelope proteins that may affect changes in expression in human brains.

Barbara R. Silver, Research Specialist

Mrs. Silver works in Dr. Viscidi’s laboratory. She develops and performs serologic assays on viral pathogens with known or suspected links to cancer

Shuojia Yang, Research Specialist

Ms. Yang works in Dr. Yolken’s laboratory. She is investigating the viral gene expression in the brain that may cause several types of psychosis by using PCR, Templiphi/Genimiphi amplification, cloning and sequencing. Some of her other responsibilities include DNA extractions from whole blood and serum, generating large quantity of DNA for the studies. She is also part of the serology study (anti-HERV-W protein antibody in serum).

Ou Chen - Research Specialist

Ms. Chen is working with Dr. Sabunciyan in investigating epigenic changes in host cells following toxoplasma infection. She is also involved in developing new methods for detecting infectious agents using high throughput sequencing. In addition, Ms. Chen is characterizing gene expression in postmortem tissue samples from the Stanley Medical Research Institute Brain Collection.

Ou Chen

Ann C. Cusic, Administrative Manager

Ms. Cusic is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Division which includes payroll, ordering of supplies, maintenance of Divisional server, teleconferencing unit, preparation of all research grants and manuscripts, time and attendance for support staff, and the maintenance of the website. In addition, Ms. Cusic is responsible for receiving all samples that are sent to Dr. Yolken’s lab, logging the samples in, issuing a study number, issuing a JHU sample number, entering all of the test data. She is also responsible for the coordination of the annual Stanley meeting. In addition, Ms. Cusic is the liaison for the Division with the Department of Pediatrics’ Business office, School of Medicine Research Administration, School of Medicine Research Accounting, Hopkins International Office, and the Stanley Medical Research Institute.

Ruby L. Mason - Laboratory Technician II

Ms. Mason works with Dr. Jones-Brando. She maintains the Stanley Lab’s glassware and autoclaving facilities as well as the inventory of the laboratory supplies room. She assists the faculty, fellows and research technicians in Dr. Yolken’s laboratories as requested. In addition she performs commercial ELISAs on the serum studies that come into the Stanley Labs for analysis.

Stanley Division of Developmental NeurovirologyJohn Hopkins Medicine

Home | People/Staff | Publications | Past Meetings & Events | Departments/Programs | Fellowship Application
Laboratory Procedures | About Us | Contact Us | Sitemap | Internal Use

©2005-2017 Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology

developed by