Texas Tech University

Viral Disease Expert Joins Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine

George Watson

July 29, 2020

Mariposa Station

Ebenezer Tumban brings extensive research experience on viruses originating from animals.

Diagnosing, treating and, where possible, preventing infections in animals is not only crucial for animal health, but because some human viruses originate from animal reservoirs, understanding and preventing infections in animals can help protect human health as well.

There's no better example of that in today's society than in the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, or COVID-19, is believed to have originated from bats or other unknown animals in southern China and was transmitted to a human, who, in turn, infected other people, resulting in more than 13 million diagnosed cases around the world and more than 575,000 deaths. The need for an effective vaccine has been widely reported. Building effective vaccines – for COVID-19 or other diseases of animals and people – required many different and innovative scientists.

Ebenezer Tumban has spent the last 13 years researching viruses and their transmission methods, and now brings his expertise to the faculty of the new Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo as an associate professor of molecular virology and vaccinology. He will begin his duties on Aug. 1.

Ebenezer Tumban
Ebenezer Tumban

"I am so excited to be joining Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine," Tumban said, "There has never been a better time than now to be part of the veterinary school. We are in the midst of a viral pandemic that may have originated from bats or unknown animal reservoirs and thus, there is a need to identify, study and control emerging infectious agents, which can affect the lives of animals including humans. I am happy to be joining a program which has a faculty body with a diverse background in biomedical sciences to help with this effort."

Since 2014, Tumban has served on the faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University, and since 2019 has served as graduate program director. At Michigan Tech, he taught medical virology and mycology in the Clinical Laboratory Science Program as well as general microbiology and cancer biology. His research involved developing vaccines against the human papillomaviruses, Zika virus and Chikungunya virus. From 2016 to 2019 he also served as a visiting adjunct associate professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque.

He also was responsible for helping set up a SARS-CoV-2 testing laboratory at Michigan Tech as well as testing of clinical samples for the virus.

Prior to his time at Michigan Tech, Tumban performed the same vaccine-related research at the New Mexico from 2010 to 2014. This research resulted in a patent that has been licensed to Agilvax Biotech in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tumban spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow in research and development at CTK Biotech in San Diego, California where he researched antigens used to develop immunodiagnostic kids against Dengue Fever.

"While virology is foundational for veterinary medicine, the current pandemic speaks to the importance and value to our society of the transformative work that Dr. Tumban undertakes," said Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. "More broadly, we are always in need of better vaccines for control of diseases in our livestock and in our pets, and for humans, too. Dr. Tumban brings that innovative spirit that will make the school a center of vaccine discovery. He is also a great teacher. Dr. Tumban is great asset for the school, our region and the state."

Tumban earned his bachelor's degree in biochemistry from the University of Buea in Cameroon before coming to the U.S. He received his master's degree in biology from New Mexico Highlands University before earning his doctorate in molecular biology from New Mexico State University.

While at New Mexico State, Tumban researched why flaviviruses, a genus of viruses that includes West Nile, Dengue, tick-borne encephalitis, yellow fever and Zika, have different modes of transmission.

Tumban is a member of the International Papillomavirus society and a past member of the American Society for Virology and the American Society for Microbiology. He also served as a board member at-large from 2015 to 2018 for the Michigan branch of the American Society for Microbiology.

"Dr. Tumban has a truly well-rounded background, working in microbiology, immunology, virology, parasitology and cancer biology," said John Dascanio, senior associate dean for academic and student affairs. "His focus has been in vaccine development, a very important area for addressing emerging infectious diseases. He has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students, sharing his love for discovery. His work will dovetail very well with other faculty and with the program's goals of serving rural and regional Texas and beyond."

Tumban becomes the 23rd faculty member for the School of Veterinary Medicine. Additional faculty members will be added over the summer and fall.

About the School of Veterinary Medicine

Thanks to the generosity of Amarillo and communities across Texas, and the commitment of legislators from around the state, the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, established in 2018, is working to enroll its first class in the fall of 2021, pending approval by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education.

The School of Veterinary Medicine will recruit and select students with a passion to serve in rural and regional communities. Its curriculum is focused on the competencies and skills necessary for success in practices that support these communities. Texas Tech's innovative and cost-efficient model partners with the wider community of veterinary practices across the state to provide clinical, real-world experiential learning.