Respiratory and emerging hemorrhagic fever viruses represent some of the greatest threats to global health and food security. Many are characterized as zoonotic infections with life cycles occurring in multiple species. Vaccines and anti-viral therapy is difficult to develop due to high mutation rates and efficient immune avoidance mechanisms.
However, due to genetic economy and that they are obligate intra-cellular parasites, viruses are dependent on many different host cell factors to facilitate genome replication and expression and progeny virus production. Thus an exciting area in virology is the identification of these cellular factors, characterizing their role in virus biology and using small molecules to inhibit virus-related functions. Such an approach provides great promise for a new generation of therapeutics.
Our major focus:
Our laboratory has used high resolution approaches such as deep seqeuncing and proteomics to study the interactions of examples of these viruses (from Biosafety Level 2 to Biosafety Level 4 pathogens) with host cells and identify essential host cell factors. Additionally, we have used proteomic based pull downs to identify cellular proteins that interact with viral proteins. Using a combination of RNAi and small molecule inhibitors we are able to disrupt these interactions and study the effect on function and virus biology. We also use deep sequencing to study virus evolution and interaction with the host.
We have projects on Ebola virus and human respiratory syncytial virus. With collegues at Northwest A&F University in China we focus on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and with collaborators at SIgN in Singapore we work on EV71 and Zika virus.
Research is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (USA), the Defence Science Technology Laboratory (UK), the Defence Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) (USA) and the Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections. We also work closely with the Pirbright Institute and Public Health England.