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Dr. Joe Russo (BS '08, Ph.D. '14)

Dr. Joe Russo always knew he wanted to make a positive impact in life. But never in his wildest dreams did he imagine touching billions of lives around the world. It all began at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where Joe earned a BS and later a PhD in biology. He then continued at Colorado State University, where he studied RNA virus metabolism as a postdoctoral associate. From there, Joe returned to St. Louis for what would become a breakout role in biotech. Throughout his journey as a global difference maker in the realm of scientific discovery, Dr. Russo has been grateful to UMSL for helping him realize his potential. 

Dr. Joe Russo

"The exceptional professors in the biology department not only provided scientific education and development but also career support and guidance," Dr. Joe Russo said. "I am truly grateful to my PhD advisor, Dr. Olivas, for believing in me enough to suggest a career in molecular biology." 

After completing his post-doc work, Joe joined Pfizer in 2018, focusing on next-generation gene therapy platforms. His work was critical with the arrival of COVID-19 a little more than a year later and Pfizer’s subsequent commitment to vaccine development using a novel mRNA-based platform. Joe served as an innovator and collaborator on the team that ultimately created Pfizer’s COVID-19 RNA vaccine, bringing hope to a world turned upside down by the deadly pandemic.  

Today, Joe is a senior principal scientist and RNA technology development lead in Pfizer's BioProcess R&D. He is also active in paying his UMSL experience forward, serving as a teaching adjunct in the Department of Biology and participating in multiple Biology Career Forum events.