Leikauf named chair of UC Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences

Prolific toxicology researcher returns to UC faculty

George Leikauf, PhD, has been named chair of the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Chair of Environmental Health, pending approval by the UC Board of Trustees. His appointment is effective Feb. 1, 2022.

Leikauf will be returning to the College of Medicine as he served on faculty in the department from 1986 until 2008, rising to the rank of professor. Since leaving, Leikauf has been a professor of environmental and occupational health in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

“I am excited and humbly honored,” Leikauf says about coming back to UC. He cited the strong scientific environment, wide range of research opportunities and the livable city of Cincinnati as reasons for returning.

portrait of George Leikauf, PhD

George Leikauf, PhD

An internationally known and highly respected toxicologist, Leikauf has been a prolific researcher, having received more than $51.7 million in sponsored research funding during his career. His grants have included a dozen R01s, three P30 and two U01 grants, and two T32 research training grants. Dr. Leikauf’s research has focused on investigating the mechanisms by which inhaled chemicals can induce lung diseases, such as acute lung injury, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His current projects include investigating therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of acute lung injury, the use of genetic, transcriptomic and metabolomic approaches to understand lung molecular biology, and the study of adverse health effects of e-cigarette vaping.

“We are fortunate to attract Dr. Leikauf back to Cincinnati. He will provide superb leadership for one of the country’s foremost environmental health departments and his public health expertise will further strengthen the burgeoning Public Health programs within the department,” says Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean.

The Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences was founded in 1949 and includes six divisions, 36 full-time faculty, 55 staff, and an annual budget of more than $18.6 million. The department currently has more than $10 million in research holdings.

“The Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences has and will continue to empower all people to live free from stressors that are adverse to public health,” Leikauf says. “The department strives to provide scientific insights that improve population health through clean air, clean water, safe food, safe workplaces and access to health care and sustainable communities. Environmental and Public Health Science is, by definition, a multi-disciplinary field. This department is strengthened through the collaboration of individuals who specialize in multiple fields of science.”

Leikauf has served on numerous advisory committees, including chairing several National Institutes of Health Study Sections and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Review Panels. He also has served on the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council.

While at UC, Leikauf served as director of the Pulmonary Cell Biology Laboratory (1986-2007), associate director of the department (1987-2005), director of the Inhalation and Aerosol Core Facility (1991-1996), deputy director of the Center for Environmental Genetics (1992-2007), director of the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Training Program (1995-1998) and director of the Environmental Genetics and Molecular Toxicology Division (1996-2007).

In 1985, Dr. Leikauf received the Kenneth Morgareidge Award from the International Life Sciences Institute for his significant contributions to the field of toxicology. Specifically, Dr. Leikauf was honored for developing methods that reduced or eliminated the use of animals in toxicology and for research exploring cellular and molecular mechanisms of airway disease induced by environmental agents. He also was recognized in 2017 with Honorary Membership in the Society of Toxicology for outstanding and sustained achievements in the field of toxicology.

Glenn Talaska, PhD, who has served as interim chair of the department since May 1, 2019 will continue leading the department until Leikauf’s arrival.