Suiting Up To Change The World: Keeton Krause, U’16, Tests Live Zika in Search of a Vaccine

Think back to August—the threat of the Zika virus plastered the news. Rio-bound Olympians were turning in their tickets, while countries were taking every possible precaution to guard their athletes against infection. And just as tens of thousands were devising a plan to avoid contamination, Keeton Krause was helping create the ultimate plan to end the virus’ spread—a vaccine.

Keeton, a Loveland, Colo. native, graduated from Saint Mary in 2016 with a degree in biology. Aside from being an exceptional outfielder for Spires Baseball, he was the epitome of a professor’s dream student. Inquisitive, motivated, and involved—that described Keeton.

Faculty knew he would go on to make an impact, though his post-graduation path wasn’t entirely clear until months after Commencement. His initial plan to be a research assistant, while in a master’s program at the University of Hawai’i-Mãnoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) fell through due to lack of grant funding. The school also offered him a teaching-assistantship, but funding fell through—and in hindsight, Keeton is glad it did.

In June, JABSOM notified Keeton a new research assistantship focused on Zika had been funded—and just a month later, Keeton said “aloha” to his new home: Mãnoa.

Since arriving, he’s been taking a full load of coursework toward his Master of Science in Tropical Medicine, while also working with a faculty researcher (called a “principle investigator”) to find a model animal to study the Zika virus on. Along with this being an incredible opportunity for Keeton, it’s a remarkable step in research for Hawaii (and the world). It’s taken years to convince the Hawaii State Board of Agriculture to approve the university’s application to import live Zika virus due to the delicacy of the island’s ecosystem. Keeton’s persistent work in lab, day after day, truly has the power to change the world—something Keeton admits he never dreamed he’d be a part of … something that gives Saint Mary so much to be proud of.

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