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UHCOP Professor Kevin W. Garey speaks at the Peggy Lillis Foundation for C. diff Education & Advocacy's 14th Annual Changing the Odds Gala Nov. 3 in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was recognized with the foundation's 2023 Innovator Award. Photo courtesy of Peggy Lillis Foundation

Infectious Diseases Innovator

Garey Earns Recognition from C diff. Foundation for Development of
Quality-of-Life Instrument

Nov. 22 - What started as a routine root canal ended with the tragic passing of kindergarten teacher Peggy Lillis in 2010. Lillis had developed Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infection after undertaking antibiotic treatment for an abscess.

Following her death, Lillis’s sons created the Peggy Lillis Foundation for C. diff Education and Advocacy (PLF), which aims to raise awareness and shape policy to improve treatments for C. diff infection. PLF honored Kevin Garey, Pharm.D., M.S., FASHP, FIDSA, FCCP, BCIDP, with its 2023 Innovator Award at the foundation’s 14th annual Changing the Odds Gala Nov. 3 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Garey was recognized for his development of "Cdiff32," an innovative approach to assessing the impact of C. diff infections (CDI) on patients’ quality of life. This survey is now routinely used in CDI clinical trials, including the recent phase 3 study of SER-109. Following FDA approval, SER-109 – sold by Seres Therapeutics Inc. under the brand name Vowst, is the first orally administered fecal microbiota product for the prevention of recurrence of CDI following antibiotic treatment. This study was the first to include a patient reported outcome in indication trials for C. difficile treatments; a gratifying accomplishment after developing the survey, Garey said.

Garey’s journey into CDI research began in 2005 after an outbreak of CDI occurred on the obstetrics ward of the hospital where he was part of the research group investigating the outbreak. This led to the creation of his multidisciplinary C. difficile research team. Since formation of the team, Garey and his collaborators have published over 150 research articles focused on CDI and has been awarded over $10 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and multiple companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

Garey’s lab has advanced science significantly with the major discovery of a human gene that increases the risk of primary and recurrent CDI. In addition, his lab’s ongoing observational trials often lead to drug clinical trials, including a study of antibiotic rifaximin for the prevention of CDI with results incorporated into U.S. and European CDI practice guidelines. As his lab has continued to grow, Garey and his team expanded their multi-site research capabilities, including a major surveillance effort to detect the next epidemic strain of C. diff.

"The Lillis Foundation efforts to bring a patient voice to improve treatment of C. diff infection is a laudable goal and a major need," Garey said. "I am honored to be a recipient of their Innovator Award and am happy that my contributions are helping to improve care and helping to augment the patient voice."

Garey is UHCOP’s Robert L. Boblitt Endowed Professor of Drug Discovery and professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Translational Research.