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Ken Witwer, PhD

Ken Witwer, PhD

Assistant Professor

733 N. Broadway
Edward D. Miller Research Building
Room 829
Baltimore, MD 21205

410-955-9770 - Phone
410-955-9823 - Fax

Email: Click Here


Ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules are found not only inside, but also outside of human cells in biological fluids such as blood plasma, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid. Although normally very labile, these molecules are protected from degradation by molecular shuttles including extracellular vesicles (EV). Rapidly expanding research programs over the last several years indicate that EV and their nucleic acid cargo may provide early warning of disease, contribute to the defense against disease, and serve as models for effective therapies. Dr. Witwer's laboratory, a part of the Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology Retrovirus Lab, investigates extracellular vesicles and RNA in the context of HIV infection and inflammatory disease. Dr. Witwer is also actively assessing the effects of diet on extracellular RNA as a potential therapeutic approach.

NIH-funded projects:

  • "Development of miRNA-based therapies to silence or purge the latent macrophage reservoir in HAND"
  • "Biomarkers of the HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders: plasma and CSF miRNAs in prediction, diagnosis, and pathogenesis of HAND" (in collaboration with PI Dr. Janice Clements)
  • "Circulating cellular and extracellular noncoding RNAs in HIV-1 Elite Suppression" (in collaboration with Dr. Joel Blankson)

Research Opportunities

Undergraduates and research technologists who have worked with the Witwer lab have been co-authors on seven published or submitted scientific papers over the last two years. Students in the Witwer lab have presented at various scientific conferences and include:

  • Three recipients of young investigator awards from professional meetings;
  • Two recipients of Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards (PURA); and
  • Two Center for AIDS Research Baltimore HIV Scholars.

Local undergraduates with laboratory experience and a strong interest in HIV, RNA, or EV research are encouraged to inquire about available projects.


Ken Witwer received his undergraduate degree from Penn State University, where he studied Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, German, and International Politics. He performed undergraduate research in the laboratory of Dr. Jerry Workman. working closely with then-postdoc Dr. Michael Carrozza. Dr. Witwer earned a doctorate in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Program at Johns Hopkins  and received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Mentored by Dr. Janice Clements, he researched innate immune responses to HIV and related lentiviruses that infect humans, non-human primates, sheep, and goats. The two major foci of his thesis were the potential host restriction factor promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML or TRIM19) and the cytokine/chemokine regulatory system, particularly during acute infection. Dr. Witwer remained at Johns Hopkins to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in microRNA biomarker research, and he joined the MCP faculty in 2011.

Selected publications


Dr. Witwer's Google Scholar Page



International Society for Extracellular Vesicles  

American Society for Exosomes and Microvesicles  

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