Ronald Ellis, MD, PhD, is an adult neurologist specializing in neuro-infectious diseases, particularly HIV infection. His research examines how pathological interactions between human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and its human host result in nervous system diseases such as dementia and peripheral neuropathy. His recent work concerns the role of metabolic syndrome and vascular risk factors in persisting neurocognitive impairment in aging HIV+ individuals.
Dr. Ellis directs a laboratory examining viral load and cytokines and chemokines in HIV. He serves as co-director of the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Programs (HNRP), and PI of its Neuromedical Core, as well as Co-Director of the Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research Center (TMARC) at UCSD. Additionally, he is a co-investigator for the large NIMH-funded CNS HIV Antiretroviral Therapy Effects Research (CHARTER) study, which has enrolled over 1,500 subjects at 6 universities across the country to evaluate changes in HIV-associated neurological disease since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
He also is active in international efforts in HIV neurological disease. Most recently, he is spearheading a collaboration with King Fahd Specialist Hospital, Dammam, to advance clinical research infrastructure capacity in Saudi Arabia. He continues to make significant contributions to international research on neuroAIDS, serving as a co-investigator or consultant on projects in Romania, Cameroon, Nigeria and India. He serves as a grant reviewer for the NIH Fogarty International Program, “Brain Disorders in the Developing World” and as an ad hoc grant reviewer for Aids Fonds, Netherlands.
Dr. Ellis has actively mentored junior investigators for more than 10 years. He contributes to the NIH R25 -funded, 2-year Interdisciplinary Research Fellowship in NeuroAIDS (IRFN), which provides clinicians with formal research training so as to increase the number of clinician researchers equipped to solve emerging health problems. As an alumnus of UCSD’s National Center for Leadership in Academic Medicine (NCLAM), he continues to participate in this program as a mentor. He attracts new talent to the University by assisting trainees in obtaining extramural support and fostering their academic careers.
In addition, Dr. Ellis has been active in designing and conducting industry- and NIH- supported clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of new treatments for HIV neurocognitive disorders and dementia, such as memantine, selegiline and minocycline, and for HIV-associated, painful distal sensory polyneuropathy, such as prosaptide, pregabalin, capsaicin and medicinal cannabis.
Dr. Ellis is frequently consulted by the National Institutes of Health to serve on advisory boards, grant review committees, and other expert bodies. He is an active contributor to national specialty groups in his area of expertise. For example, In April 2013, at the invitation of Dr. Robert Eisinger, he contributed to a meeting of the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council (OARAC) that highlighted research on the epidemiology, diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and prevention of neuro-AIDS and HIV-associated neurological disorders. He has held leadership positions in numerous NIH-funded clinical trials networks, including the NIAID-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG). In this context he spearheaded the design, implementation and validation of an ongoing effort to develop more practical and cost efficient tools to screen for neuroAIDS in a national cohort of more than 6000 individuals with HIV infection receiving antiretroviral therapy.
He reviews manuscripts for more than a dozen clinical and basic science journals including the Annals of Neurology, JAMA, Neurology, Neuroscience Letters, the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, the Journal of Infectious Diseases, and AIDS.
Over his career, Dr. Ellis has published over 150 articles in refereed, high impact, scientific journals such as Annals of Neurology, Neurology, and Nature Reviews Neuroscience. He has been successful in obtaining continuous NIH funding over his career. He reviews abstracts for scientific congresses such as the American Academy of Neurology and the American Neurological Association, and serves as session chair for presentations at annual scientific meetings. He recently contributed a chapter, "Nervous System Infections in the Elderly,” to a new textbook intended to serve as a reference for subspecialty certification in the new area of Geriatric Neurology. Dr. Ellis provides patient evaluation and management services in both outpatient and inpatient settings.
At the UCSD-Hillcrest Neurology Clinic, Dr. Ellis evaluates neuroAIDS and general neurology referrals weekly. He is the only neuroAIDS subspecialist in the San Diego area and generates referrals from Palm Springs, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Francisco. As an attending physician on the neurology clinical service at UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, he supervises a team of physicians caring for individuals requiring inpatient management.
Dr. Ellis recently expanded his patient care activities through a novel technology, telemedicine. After successfully competing for a grant through UCSD’s Extending eXPertise to Areas in Need (EXPAND) program, he began providing specialty telemedicine evaluation services to the Desert AIDS Project (DAP), which is the largest primary medical care provider for people living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHA) in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.