Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz

Professor - Phoenix

Dr. Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz received her bachelor's degree from Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, CO and her doctoral degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX in the Experimental Pathology Program.  She completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University in the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology with Dr. Charles Arntzen.  Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz joined the University of Arizona, College of Medicine-Phoenix in 2009 as the Oncology Block/Course Director in the preclerkship medical curriculum.  She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in the Departments of Basic Medical Sciences and Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2016 and became the Director of the Women’s Health Microbiome Initiative at the College of Medicine-Phoenix in 2017. Her lab is focused on understanding the microbiome and host-microbe interactions in the female reproductive tract as it relates to oncologic, reproductive, gynecologic health outcomes. She has been funded by NIH NIAID and foundations including the Flinn Foundation, ARDF and most recently the Mary Kay Foundation. Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz utilizes clinical specimens, animal models and an innovative 3-D bioreactor system to study human epithelial and innate immune responses to commensals, pathogens, and microbial products at this site. In addition, she has studied interventions for preventing STIs (vaginal microbicides and mucosal vaccines) and has a long-standing interest in enhancing women’s health outcomes through translational research. Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz enjoys interacting with the media to disseminate research findings and has been interviewed by news outlets including NPR/KJZZ Radio, Forbes Magazine, ScienceNews, MITNews and others. She was most recently recognized as a member of the “40 under 40” Class of 2018 by the Phoenix Business Journal. The award recognizes leaders in their organizations that are making a difference in their companies/organizations, as well as their greater community.

The Herbst-Kralovetz research lab is broadly interested in understanding innate mucosal immune responses to resident bacteria, STI pathogens (e.g HPV, HSV), and microbial products at mucosal sites, including the female reproductive tract. Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz has a long-standing interest and background in studying infections and diseases that impact in women’s health. Our lab is currently studying the relationship between vaginal dysbiosis and HPV persistence, progression and carcinogenesis, endometrial cancer and other gynecologic sequelae. The mucosa provides a major immune barrier (physical, biological, and chemical) to microbial insult and the lab is interested in studying the mucosal barrier function of the female reproductive tract and its role in host defense against infection and inflammation as well as maintaining mucosal homeostasis. ​Furthermore, our laboratory is investigating the mechanisms by which vaginal bacteria may influence the hallmarks of cancer.

Laboratory website:

Research Interests: 
Biomedical engineering
Cancer Biology and Cancer Prevention
Precision medicine