Dr. Sestak’s research focuses on viral and autoimmune diseases of gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts such as rotavirus, calicivirus, coronavirus, SIV and gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Over past 12 years, several of the novel viruses and disease conditions were described for the first time in non-human primate hosts (TUCH rotavirus, rhesus enteric calicivirus model of human Norovirus and gluten-sensitive rhesus model of human celiac disease). Main objective of such work is to utilize the non-human primate models of above diseases to investigate the understudied questions and hypotheses that cannot be addressed directly in human host.
As a Research Director and CEO of the newly formed company PreCliniTria, LLC., Dr. Sestak functions currently as a consultant involving commercial and academic research with above diseases and pathogens. Studied agents were discovered and characterized in Dr. Sestak’s laboratory at Tulane with participation of investigators from Stanford University, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, NIH, Arcadia Biosciences and others. Presently ongoing pre-clinical trials are focusing on evaluation of novel strategies for the prevention and treatment of celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivities. These strategies are exploiting the idea of using reduced-gluten varieties of cereal grains as conventional wheat flour substitutes. Efforts to establish the national colony of genetically and immunologically-defined gluten-sensitive macaques that would be available for similar but more extensive research, involving commercial and academic collaborative entities, are under way.