Kenneth E. Palmer

Helmsley Chair in Plant-Based Pharmaceutical Research

School of Medicine

Kenneth E. Palmer, Ph.D., is executive director of the Owensboro Cancer Research Program and a member of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. He also is a professor in UofL’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and is an associate faculty member in the Departments of Family Medicine and Geriatrics and Microbiology and Immunology.

Dr. Palmer’s research focuses on developing biologic-based therapeutics and vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV), human papillomaviruses (HPV), herpesviruses and hepatitis C. The goal is to discover and develop antiviral products that provide broad spectrum activity against multiple pathogens, and vaccines that address pathogen genetic diversity.

Dr. Palmer is leading an international team of researchers working to utilize tobacco plants to develop a gel containing a specific protein that will prevent the transmission of HIV funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The group is working with the carbohydrate binding protein Griffithsin (GRFT), which is found in red algae. GRFT binds to the dense shield of sugars that surrounds HIV cells and prevents these cells from entering other non-HIV cells. The team plans to develop a gel containing the protein for use during sexual intercourse by people at risk for HIV transmission.

Dr. Palmer’s group also has secured funding for clinical trials of a next generation HPV prophylactic vaccine that induces cross-protective immunity against all oncogenic HPV types.

Dr. Palmer received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, in 1997 and received postdoctoral fellowship training at Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.