The Division of Comparative Medicine

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DCM Staff


Division of Comparative Medicine

A Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine was established in 1975 under the auspices of the MIT Medical Department to meet legal mandates and federal guidelines for the care and maintenance of laboratory animals . In 1980, the Division was renamed the Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM) to reflect growing involvement in research and teaching. Since 1983, DCM has been a free standing academic unit that reports directly to the Associate Provost and Vice-President for Research. Today DCM employs 175 people and oversees a daily census of 80,000 animals comprising 15 species. Veterinary care and maintenance of animal health are primary missions of the Division. These missions are integrated with diagnostic laboratory services, research funded by NIH and private industry and postdoctoral training in biomedical research.

Division of Comparative Medicine Staff

James G. Fox, DVM, MS, DACLAM, is a Professor and Director of the Division of Comparative Medicine and a Professor in the Division of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine. He is a Diplomate and a past president of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, past president of the Massachusetts Society of Medical Research, past chairman of AAALAC Council, and past chairman of the NCCR/NIH Comparative Medicine Study Section. He also is an elected fellow of the Infectious Disease Society of America and the American Gastroenterology Association. Professor Fox is the author of over 625 articles, 80 chapters, 3 patents and has edited and authored 15 texts in the field of in vivo model development and comparative medicine.

He has served on the editorial board of several journals and is a past member of the NIH/NCRR Scientific Advisory Council. He has received numerous scientific awards including the AVMA’s Charles River Prize in Comparative Medicine, the AALAS Nathan Brewer Scientific Achievement Award, the AVMA Excellence in Research Award, the ACLAM Award for Scientific Achievement, the Pravin Bhatt award for research excellence and the AALAS Griffin Award. He has been studying infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract for the past 40 years and has focused on the pathogenesis of Campylobacter spp. and Helicobacter spp. infection in humans and animals. His laboratory developed the ferret as a model for both campylobacter and helicobacter associated disease as well as the first rodent model to study helicobacter associated gastric disease including gastric cancer. Dr. Fox is considered an international authority on the epidemiology and pathogenesis of enterohepatic helicobacters in humans and animals. He is largely responsible for identifying, naming, and describing many of the diseases attributed to various Helicobacter species; most notably their association with hepatitis, liver tumors, inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer in mice. His laboratory most recently has described the pivotal role that Helicobacter spp. play in the development of the gallstones in mice fed a lithogenic diet; thus linking this finding to his earlier description of Helicobacter spp. associated chronic cholecystitis and gallstones in Chilean women, a population at high risk of developing gallbladder cancer. He also has had a long-standing interest in zoonotic diseases as well as biosafety issues associated with in vivo models. His past and current research has been funded by NIH and NCI, as well as by private industrial sources, for the past 40 years. He has been the principal investigator of an NIH postdoctoral training grant for veterinarians for the past 29 years. He consults nationally and internationally with government, academia and industry. In 2004 Professor Fox was elected to the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Fox

Mark T. Whary, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, is the Associate Director and along with Dr. Fox is responsible for management of the MIT animal resource program. Dr. Whary is the principal veterinary reviewer of animal care and use protocols, is a primary contact for regulatory issues and oversees training of new investigators. Dr. Whary also serves on the Radiation Protection Committee, the Division’s environmental health and safety committee, manages the occupational health program, contributes to the postdoctoral program in comparative medicine for veterinarians and provides support for web page management and technical writing for the Division. Dr. Whary’s research in mucosal immunology has focused on the pathogenesis of helicobacter infections in humans and in genetically engineered mice as models of human infectious gastritis, hepatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Recent addition of capabilities for germfree and gnotobiotic mouse studies will focus on gut flora ecology and the onset of gastrointestinal and hepatic diseases in animal models.

Dr. Whary

Susan Erdman, DVM, MPH, DACLAM, is an Assistant Director and Chief of Clinical Resources within the Division. She completed the postdoctoral training program in Comparative Medicine at MIT and received a Master’s degree from Harvard in 1992. She also serves as a PI or co-PI on several NIH and DOD supported grants. Her research focus is roles of inflammatory disease in cancer and the role of probiotics in promoting health. Along with Dr. Marini, she coordinates the training schedule and seminars for the postdoctoral trainees.


Robert P. Marini, DVM, DACLAM, Assistant Director, is a member of DCM’s clinical staff and is Chief of the Division’s clinical surgical facilities. Dr. Marini is responsible for coordinating and supervising all major survival surgery in non-rodent mammalian species. Dr. Marini’s interests focus on experimental surgery and anesthesiology. He actively collaborates on several NIH funded research projects as well as being involved in the investigation of spontaneously occurring diseases of laboratory animals. Dr. Marini is closely involved in didactic coursework involving physical and chemical animal restraint, specialized surgical procedures, anesthetic regimens, and basic life support measures employed in a wide variety of animal species. He coordinates the training schedule and seminars for the postdoctoral trainees. He also holds an appointment as a lecturer in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Services and Technology.

Dr. Marini

Damodaran Annamalai, BVSc, MVSc, PhD is a Research/Clinical Veterinarian with clinical responsibility for multiple animal species. Dr. Annamalai received his veterinary degree in India and is currently licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the USA with certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG). Prior to coming to MIT, he completed his PhD in pharmacology from the Loyola University Chicago, Illinois followed by a residency program in laboratory animal medicine from the Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon. His research interest is focused on the spontaneous diseases of rodents and understanding tumor metastasis.


Vasudevan Bakthavatchalu, BVSc, MVSc, PhD, DACVP, is a comparative pathologist responsible for advising and performing laboratory animal necropsies and providing histopathological interpretations to support diagnostic pathology and research investigations within the institution. He has a PhD in toxicology with research emphasis on mitochondrial injury, oxidative stress, and carcinogenesis. His current collaborative research activity includes providing pathology support for various principal investigators, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate/summer students within the institution. In addition, he has special interests towards molecular carcinogenesis, rodent models of inflammation and cancer, and phenotypic characterization of genetically engineered mice.

Dr. Bakthavatchalu

Monika Burns, DVM is a Senior Research/Clinical Veterinarian with primary clinical responsibility for non-rodent mammalian species at MIT. Dr. Burns joined the DCM staff following completion of the MIT DCM postdoctoral training program in comparative medicine. Prior to her training at MIT, she received her DVM degree from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Her current research focuses on the effects of Helicobacter pylori on neurodevelopment, and the relationship of H. pylori and iron deficiency in transgenic and wild-type mouse models.

Dr. Monika Burns

Zhongming Ge, PhD, is a Molecular Biologist in the Division. His research interests include identification of virulence factors from gastric and enterohepatic helicobacters, the pathogen-host interactions and molecular mechanisms of liver and intestinal tumorigenesis in mouse models. He is also actively involved in collaborative research on several NIH-funded projects as well as the training and supervision of undergraduates and post-doctoral fellows.

Dr. Ge

Alison M Hayward, DVM, CPIA is a Senior Clinical/Surgical Veterinarian with 20 years of experience in private small animal practice as well as laboratory animal medicine and surgery in academic and contract research settings. Dr. Hayward has primary interests in comparative medicine and anesthesia, surgical model development, and medical device testing. She has experience with regulatory affairs governing animal use in research, IACUC administration, GLP regulations for device assessment, as well as protocol/project management. Her focus is within the Langer Lab on drug delivery devices in animal models.

Jennifer Haupt, DVM, is a Research/Surgical Veterinarian who helps perform and coordinate surgical procedures in all mammalian species as well as overseeing the E25 animal facility. Dr. Haupt joined DCM following the completion of a surgical residency at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She has special interest in developing orthopedic models for osteoarthritis and fracture repair studies. In addition, she has additional training in rodent microsurgical techniques. She is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Dr. Haupt is available to consult on surgical techniques as well as assist and perform surgical procedures on all mammalian species. Jennifer Haupt
Hilda Holcombe, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, is a Senior Research/Clinical Veterinarian with primary responsibilities for rodents in the Koch Institute and non-primate species in E17/18. She received her PhD in immunology following graduation from veterinary school and has a primary interest in mucosal immunity. Her current research focuses on novel approaches for using engineered nucleases to generate genetically modified inbred guinea pigs. She also studies macrophage function in rodent models of IBD. Hilda Halcombe
Robin Kramer, DVM is Veterinary Coordinator of Research Services, acting as a liaison between DCM and the Committee on Animal Care (CAC). Dr. Kramer also provides clinical support for multiple species. She received her veterinary degree from the University of Missouri and spent 5 years in private practice before completing a post-doctoral fellowship in laboratory animal medicine at the Tri-Institutional Training Program in New York City. In addition to her clinical experience, Dr. Kramer has IACUC (CAC) experience at multiple institutions, most recently with Boston University. Dr. Kramerís research interests include the tumor microenvironment and investigating spontaneous disease in laboratory animal species. Dr. Kramer is available to assist with protocol writing and review as well as consult on unexpected outcomes due to clinical disease or experimental procedures. Dr. Robin Kramer

Sureshkumar Muthupalani, BVSc, PhD, DACVP, is the Chief of Comparative Pathology and has more than 10 years of experience as a comparative pathologist within the institution. He is a veterinarian with a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Kentucky and residency training in anatomic pathology from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Muthupalani is responsible for laboratory animal pathology services as well as collaborating with a variety of principal investigators and scientists within and outside of the Division. He provides oversight of DCMís histology and diagnostic pathology laboratories and is involved in quality control as well as standardization of new immunohistochemistry protocols. His current collaborative research and pathology expertise spans a broad range of animal disease models with more than 56 scientific publications to his credit. In addition, he is involved in the phenotypic characterization of genetically engineered mice as well as spontaneous diseases of laboratory animals.

Dr. Muthupalani

Mary Patterson, MS, DVM, DACLAM, was in a mixed animal private practice for a number of years prior to entering the DCM postdoctoral training program. Now as a Chief of Primate Ressources, she provides daily oversight for multiple animal species. Much of her time is directed toward the social housing of nonhuman primates, as well as the development of policies and standard operating procedures governing their use. Spontaneous disease and basic research studies, on which she has worked and published have involved rhesus macaques, ferrets, and hamsters. An evolving responsibility is to coordinate for DCM animal containment studies performed at MIT.

Dr. Patterson

Jonathan A. Runstadler, DVM, PH.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Engineering. His lab seeks to understand genetic factors that impact susceptibility to infectious disease, specific or general and the repercussions for potential epidemics, persistence, and evolution of those infectious agents. His research is conducted within the context of the interactions that define the ecology between an infectious agent, the environment and the host. His focus is on the host/agent interaction and we are exploring a variety of approaches that may shed light on these interactions.

In doing so, the lab’s new research initiatives seek to break down traditional academic boundaries and bring together collaborative teams to address issues including the identification of disease vectors, the role of environmental change and pathogen persistence, population genetics and evolutionary biology, and the ecology of infectious agents.

Dr. Jonathan Runstadler

Zeli Shen, MD, Research Scientist, studies helicobacter pathogenesis, characterizing virulence genes responsible for pathogenic potential in Helicobacter spp., and the epidemiology of helicobacter infections using molecular techniques. Her project has been involved with the isolation and characterization of new Helicobacter species and their phylogenetic analysis. She also employs the use of Helicobacter spp C57BL IL-10-/- mice as an animal model to investigate the mechanisms of helicobacter- induced inflammatory bowel disease.

Dr. Shen
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