Several investigators in the Department including Drs. George Belov, Weizhong Li, Ekaterina Viktorova, Yanjin Zhang, Jaekeun Park, and Xiaoping Zhu conduct extensive virology research. Their broad interests include the molecular mechanisms of viral infection, the role of host factors in the replication and the pathogenesis of hepatitis E virus (HEV), herpesviruses, influenza viruses, paramyxoviruses, picornaviruses, coronaviruses, arteriviruses, and the development of new vaccine candidates and anti-viral therapeutics.
The research by Drs. Belov and Viktorova focuses on picornaviruses which include important pathogens of humans and animals, such as foot and mouth disease, poliovirus, enterovirus D68, and many others. They study different aspects of virus-host interaction, mechanisms of viral replication, and the development of novel vaccines and anti-viral therapeutics.
Dr. Zhang is investigating the pathogenesis and host response upon infection of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and HEV. Dr. Zhang’s research resulted in the development of a novel PRRSV vaccine promoting interferon signaling in vivo and thus increasing the protective efficacy of the vaccine. This vaccine has already received a US patent.
Dr. Park’s research focuses on the cellular immune responses in the context of influenza virus infection and vaccination. His research interest also includes developing broadly protective influenza vaccines for poultry aiming to elicit T-cell responses that confer protection against antigenically divergent strains of the avian influenza viruses.
Dr. Zhu and Li are currently conducting research on the immune pathogenesis caused by viruses and developing a way to deliver vaccine antigens through mucosal targeting of FcRn. Their approach is specifically aimed at respiratory infections like influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), or genital infections such as herpesvirus type-2 (HSV-2) and human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1). Their mucosal vaccination approach has already been patented and licensed. Furthermore, Dr. Zhu and Dr. Li are also studying how viral proteins can affect and disrupt the host's innate and adaptive immune responses.