University Distinguished Professor
Colorado State University
Dr. Brennan began his life-long involvement in tuberculosis and leprosy research in 1962 under Professor Frank Winder at Trinity College Dublin. His Ph.D. studies helped establish for the first time that the killing effect of isoniazid on the tuberculosis (TB) bacillus was through inhibition of the synthesis of mycolic acid. Under Professor Clinton Ballou at the University of California, Berkeley, he was responsible for the early definitive work on the biosynthesis of the phosphatidylisositolmannosides (PIMs) of mycobacteria.
On his return to Ireland, Dr. Brennan was Research Lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry, Trinity College Dublin, and subsequently Lecturer in Biochemistry at University College Dublin. Dr. Brennan returned to the U.S. in 1975, to positions at National Jewish Hospital and the University of Colorado Medical Center, and in 1980 to Colorado State University.
Over the past 35 years, he has led research teams in conducting some of the most fundamental research on the nature of the tuberculosis and leprosy organisms:
(i) definition of the structure, biosynthesis, and genetics of the core cell wall of the TB bacterium and the mode of action of several key TB drugs;
(ii) discovery and molecular definition of LAM, the key ligand in the interactions of the TB organism with host cells;
(iii) the discovery and molecular structure of PGL I (phenolic glycolipid I), the specific antigen/marker of the leprosy organism and its application to the selective diagnosis of leprosy;
(iv) the introduction of the first skin test antigen for leprosy diagnosis for a leprosy endemic area;
(v) definition of the chemical basis of the serotype difference of most of the non-tuberculosis mycobacteria.
Brennan has authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications in these and related areas. He has attracted over $20 million in research funds to the University. In 1998, he was named one of 12 University Distinguished Professors at Colorado State University and in 2004 he was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology. He is Editor-in-Chief of Tuberculosis and an editor of Pathogens and Disease and a former editor of Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Tuberculosis and Leprosy research