Dr. Niel T. Constantine, a professor in the Department of Pathology, possesses 30 years of experience in the medical diagnostic arena, acts frequently as an international consultant for laboratory strengthening activities in many countries, and has a productive track record with extramural funding and publications. After obtaining a degree in Medical Technology, he completed his Ph.D. in Pathology at the University of Maryland where he has remained. During this time, he spent 3 years at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit #3 in Cairo Egypt where he established and headed a laboratory for HIV surveillance that became a WHO Collaborating Centre for HIV in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. When returning to the University in 1990, he was appointed Director of the Clinical Immunology Laboratory at the UM Medical Systems Hospital where a variety of testing is performed, including all HIV serologic testing and CD4 levels for HIV patient care. During 1993, Dr. Constantine was recruited to Geneva to work with the Global AIDS Programme in the Diagnostics Unit for establishing research protocols in a number of countries, and addressing issues in global diagnostics for HIV. Since that time, Dr. Constantine established the Laboratory of Viral Diagnostics, a strong research unit at the Institute of Human Virology that provides support for several divisions and conducts developmental test research. He and his staff are currently active in providing laboratory capability building and quality assurance for the PEPFAR program in Nigeria.
Honors and Awards
In 2005, Dr. Constantine received the Innovatorf the Year Award from The Daily Record for his work in the development of a test for detection of prions in blood.
The Laboratory of Viral Diagnostics at the Institute of Human Virology provides serologic and molecular testing capabilities, performs research activities for the development of test technology, provides training for international students, and supports a variety of ancillary activities including sample archiving, quality assurance support, and clinical trials. The staff include persons with Masters degrees in Molecular Biology, a Ph.D., and two laboratory assistants. Efforts are directed toward the development of a variety of novel technologies aimed at increasing sensitivity, simplifying procedures, and developing test technologies for resource-limited facilities in developing countries. Currently, Dr. Constantine is principal investigator for activities supported through grants from the US government, a commercial company for a FDA clinical trial for a rapid HIV test, and a grant from the Centers for Disease Control for the assessment of HIV testing algorithms. Recent grants included two from NIH for the ultra-sensitive detection of biothreat agents and development of a test to determine recent HIV infection, one from the Department of Defense for development of a blood test to detect prion protein, and industrial support for several FDA clinical trials involving HIV tests. The laboratory has been a clinical site for all 6 FDA-licensed rapid HIV tests. A major emphasis in the Laboratory of Viral Diagnostics includes new test development for the ultrasensitive detection of HIV proteins. Methods are being developed that incorporate signal amplification strategies for routine protein and antigen detection, both in high throughput and rapid/simple test configurations. Immuno-PCR that couples molecular and serologic capture methods is being explored with unique modifications of basic concepts to offer reduced background with more simplified real-time detection methods. Theoretical potentials allow for the detection of HIV p24 antigen earlier than that offered at the current level of 50 copies of HIV RNA by PCR, and the detection of prion protein at pre-symptomatic levels. Other signal amplification strategies, appropriate for resource-limited countries, include those for increasing colorimetric endpoints for both membrane-based assay configurations as well as on microsphere-coated particles that utilize battery-operated platforms. Other activities include development and assessment of sensitive/less sensitive assays to offer more efficient ways to enroll recently-infected persons into intervention programs.
Major consultant activities include those from the World Bank, USAID, and the WHO for laboratory strengthening in the countries of Egypt, Thailand, Uganda, India, the Ukraine, Indonesia, and the Philippines, all of which resulted in a number of demonstrable improvements in laboratory expertise and capabilities. Dr. Constantine has also been recruited by the WHO to assist with the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI), and has worked closely with the CDC for HIV testing activities in Nigeria.
Dr. Constantine has served on many University committees, has provided editorial assistance for over 10 journals, has recently mentored two Ph.D. students and two Masters students, and performs laboratory inspections for the College of American Pathologists.