Computer-aided approaches towards the development of small-molecule antivirals for norovirus infections
Dr. Marcella Bassetto is a medicinal organic chemist working in the drug discovery research field. She holds a MSc degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from Padova University, and a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from Cardiff University, which she completed in 2013, with a thesis on the computer-aided identification and synthesis of novel antiviral agents to inhibit HCV replication. With her post-graduate and early post-doctoral work, she has applied computational methods to design, and then synthesise, novel chemical entities with pharmaceutical activities as antiviral and anticancer agents. As a research associate, she worked in the group of late Professor Chris McGuigan, the inventor of the phosphoramidate pro-drug technology for antiviral and anticancer nucleosides. After briefly joining a pharmaceutical company in Rome, where she contributed to the development of novel therapeutic agents for a range of human conditions, she returned to Cardiff University as a research associate, and in 2016 she was awarded a Sêr Cymru II individual research fellowship, to optimise new small organic molecules as potential antiviral agents for Chikungunya and Zika viruses. In September 2019, she was awarded a Lectureship in Chemistry at Swansea University Department of Chemistry, becoming Senior Lecturer in February 2022. Starting in February 2023, she has been appointed Senior Lecturer at Cardiff School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, while maintaining an honorary position at Swansea University. Her current drug discovery research focusses on the computer-aided design and synthesis of new biologically active small molecules to treat a range of human conditions, with a major focus on viral diseases (norovirus, CHIKV, ZIKV, enteroviruses, Ebola virus, coronaviruses, arenaviruses) and inherited blinding conditions.
Viral transmission strategies for successful enteric infection
Dr. Nihal Altan-Bonnet heads the Laboratory of Host-Pathogen Dynamics at the National Institutes of Health in the USA. Her lab is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of cell biologists, virologists, environmental engineers, and computational biologists who apply their talents to understand how viruses transmit themselves effectively among hosts and establish successful infections.
Dr. Altan-Bonnet and her team have made groundbreaking discoveries that include: discovering that PI4P lipids panvirally critical for infection by RNA viruses (Hsu et al., Cell 2010), discovering a novel highly virulent viral infectious unit where viruses are transmitted en bloc inside extracellular vesicles (Chen et al., Cell 2015; Santiana et al., Cell Host and Microbe 2018), discovering SARS-CoV2 and other coronaviruses use the unusual lysosomal exocytotic pathway to exit cells, disrupt antigen presentation and evade immune defenses (Ghosh et al., Cell 2020), and discovering that enteric viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus also replicate in salivary glands and transmit through saliva (Ghosh et al., Nature 2022)
Dr. Altan-Bonnet received her PhD from The Rockefeller University. She has received the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), Kavli and Scialog Fellowships and been elected as Fellow to the American Academy of Microbiology. She is an Associate editor at Science Advances, Molecular Biology of the Cell and mBio journals.
How to use CRISPR-Cas technology towards the HIV cure
Ben Berkhout (BB) studied molecular biology at the Leiden University (1976-1981), and obtained his PhD in 1986 at the same university on a research project concerning the regulation of gene expression in RNA bacteriophages, in particular translational control by means of RNA structure. He performed postdoctoral research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute of the Harvard Medical School in the field of molecular immunology (1986-1989) and initiated HIV-1 research at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda (Department of Molecular Microbiology, 1989-1991). Since 2016, he is also visiting professor at the University of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy).
BB initiated a molecular virology research line in 1991 upon his return to the Netherlands and he has been at the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University Medical Center since then. He became Head of the Laboratory of Experimental Virology and was appointed as Professor of Human Retrovirology in 2002. BB is editor-in-chief of Virus Research, editor for several journals (Retrovirology, Journal of Biomedical Science, Journal of Biological Chemistry) and editorial board member for many more. He successfully supervised 49 PhD students and was a member of 146 PhD thesis committees.BB published over 620 peer-reviewed manuscripts on diverse topics concerning HIV replication (mechanism of transcription, reverse transcription, RNA-regulated functions), virus evolution (mechanism drug-resistance, nucleotide composition, research tool), virus discovery (human coronavirus NL63), HIV vaccine design (improved Env protein immunogen design, conditional live-attenuated HIV designs) and new antiviral therapeutic strategies (RNA interference, CRISPR-Cas). His work received more than 27,000 citations and he has an H-index of 77. BB received the Retrovirology Prize in 2008 for his pioneering research on the structure and function of the HIV-1 RNA genome.
A yellow fever virus NS4B-targeting antiviral compound functions through disruption of the ER membrane-derived replication organelles
Jinhong Chang, MD, PhD, is a Professor and Principal Investigator, Laboratory of Molecular Virology and Antiviral Research, at Baruch S. Blumberg Institute, Hepatitis B Foundation, Doylestown, Pennsylvania, USA.
Dr. Chang received her medical education and clinical training in Infectious Diseases as well as PhD in Virology at Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing, China. She received her postdoc training in Molecular Virology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Dr. Chang has more than 20 years of research experience in the areas of molecular virology, innate immunity, and antiviral drug discovery, and has more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals and 6 patents. She established her independent translational research group at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2007 and joined Baruch S. Blumberg Institute in 2015. Her group has been focusing on the development of antiviral and innate immune modulating agents for treatment of viral infections that cause hepatitis and hemorrhagic fever.Dr. Chang has been a member of ISAR since 2008 and currently serves as the Secretary of ISAR (2020-2024).
Challenges in anti-Hepatitis D Virus research: insights from preclinical and clinical studies
Maura Dandri is full Professor (W3) at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, in Germany, where she leads the Research Group Viral Hepatitis. She received her B.S. in Natural Science and PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Trieste, Italy. Her training included a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, where she worked for four years on the woodchuck model of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) infection within the group of Prof. C.E. Rogler. Together with Prof. Joerg Petersen she also established the first human liver chimeric mouse model of HBV infection. Awarded by a long-term EMBO fellowship, she returned to Europe to perform research at the Heinrich-Pette Institute of Experimental Virology in Hamburg, Germany.
Since 2009 she is Principal Investigator and head of the Research Group Viral Hepatitis within the Department of Internal Medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, in Hamburg, and was awarded in 2013 by the German Research Foundation with a Heisenberg Professorship. Maura Dandri is since 2019 member of the Executive Board of the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) and since 2021 of the Governing Board of the International Coalition to Eliminate HBV (ICE-HBV).
She has performed pioneering work by developing humanized mouse models for the study of human hepatitis viruses (HBV, HDV, HCV and HEV). Her translational research interest mainly focuses on investigating HBV cccDNA metabolism in vivo, virus-host interplay and the potential of novel therapeutic strategies, in particular against HBV and HDV. Her lab is also experienced in monitoring viral and host parameters in liver biopsy samples.
Drug repurposing at high biocontainment: Lessons learnt from screening against Ebola and SARS-CoV-2 viruses
Dr. Robert Davey’s interests are in developing small molecule therapies and understanding infection mechanism of emergent viruses such as filoviruses, arenaviruses and henipaviruses. He received his PhD in Microbiology from the University of Adelaide, Australia, in 1993. After a postdoc at Harvard Medical School he was recruited as an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Texas, USA. While at UTMB, in 2006, he started work with Ebola virus in the newly constructed Shope lab, the first BSL4 laboratory built at a university in the USA. He then moved to Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio in 2011 where he established a program for drug development against hemorrhagic fever viruses. In 2018 he moved to Boston University to the newly opened National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL) where he continues to work on virus host factor identification and antiviral drug development for BSL4 pathogens. He has made significant contributions in understanding the entry mechanism of filoviruses into host cells and using the virus as a probe to better understand general cell biological processes that include macropinocytosis and autophagy. He has also worked with multiple groups to identify and characterize new small molecule scaffolds with antiviral properties, using these as potential therapies and as probes to better study infection mechanism.
The quasispecies challenge: in search of antiviral synergisms with lethal mutagens
Esteban Domingo is “ad honorem” Professor of Research at the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) at Centro de Biología Molecular “Severo Ochoa” (CBMSO), Madrid, Spain.He received a BSc in Chemistry (1965) and a PhD in Biochemistry (1969) from the University of Barcelona. He did postdoctoral work at the University of California (UC), Irvine, working on in vitro DNA transcription, with Dr. Robert C. Warner (1969-1973), and University of Zürich, working on genetics of bacteriophage Qβ, with Dr. Charles Weissmann (1974-1977). This work permitted the first calculation of a mutation rate for an RNA virus, and the first experimental evidence of quasispecies dynamics. He joined CBMSO as staff Scientist in 1977, and was promoted to Professor of Research in 1989. With his group in Madrid they documented high mutability and quasispecies dynamics of several viruses, including the important animal pathogen foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV). In collaboration with John Holland (UC San Diego) they established several biological implications of quasispecies dynamics, and opened the way to lethal mutagenesis as an antiviral strategy. In recent years his research is centered on viral fitness and lethal mutagenesis, using FMDV, hepatitis C virus, and SARS-CoV-2 as model systems. He has published 450 research papers and several books and book chapters, with an h index of 82. He has received several awards including the degree of Doctor honoris causa from the Universities of Liège (Belgium) in 1999, and Bern (Switzerland) in 2004. He is a member of EMBO, the European Academy, the US National Academy of Sciences, and Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain.
Human metapneumovirus: new insights, new mechanisms, new targets
Rebecca Ellis Dutch, PhD, is a professor in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and the Vice Dean for Research, leading the college’s research initiatives. She joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky in 2000. Her research, which has resulted in continuous National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding since 2001 and numerous other grants, manuscripts, and presentations, focuses on emerging paramyxoviruses, with a particular emphasis on viral entry, assembly, and spread. Dr. Dutch has received many recognitions and honors related to her research, including the 2015-2016 University of Kentucky University Research Professor award, election as president of the American Society for Virology for 2016-2017, and selection as a Fellow for the American Academy of Microbiology and as the winner of the University of Kentucky SEC Academic Achievement Award in 2022. Dr. Dutch is very active in scientific service, including roles is an editor for Journal of Virology, Plos Pathogens, and mSphere.She has been a member of numerous grant review panels, including serving as a standing member of the NIH VIRB study section, and she is currently a standing member and chair of the NIH MID study section. Dr. Dutch is also a dedicated educator who has served as the primary mentor for 20 PhD students, four MD/PhD students, four postdoctoral scholars and 33 undergraduate researchers.
Addressing Viral Infections in Neglected Patient Populations : DNDi efforts
Laurent Fraisse joined the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initative (DNDi) as Research & Development (R&D) Director and Executive Team member in October 2019. In this capacity he drives DNDi’s science strategy and oversees all research and clinical activities worldwide. Laurent is an experienced biotechnology and pharmaceutical executive, and a leading expert in infectious diseases, having led R&D for large pharmaceutical firms such as Sanofi and Evotec, and served as chair of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) Strategic Governing Group dedicated to infectious diseases. Laurent joined Sanofi in 1999 after a ten-year tenure as a science leader in Elf Atochem. During 20 years at Sanofi, he rose to serve as Vice President for Infectious Disease R&D, addressing medical needs in bacterial, parasitic, and viral related infections. He then joined Evotec as Executive Vice President for infectious diseases with the mission to accelerate the infectious disease research pipeline development and initiate new open innovation R&D initiatives. Laurent graduated from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Agronomie in Rennes, France, with a specialty in Biochemistry and was awarded a PhD in Biotechnology by the Institut National Polytechnique in Toulouse in 1993.
Combining autofluorescent ANCHORTM tagged viruses with high content imaging for the discovery of new broad-spectrum Herpes virus inhibitors
Franck Gallardo has a PhD in Biochemistry from the Medicine Faculty of the University of Montreal, Canada (2005-2010), and receive postdoctoral training under support from ARC Foundation for Cancer Research (France) and the Human frontiers science organization working on the generation of DNA visualization tools for DSB repair imaging at the University de Toulouse, France (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been managing NeoVirTech SAS' development of autofluorescent viruses for the discovery of new antiviral molecules and the measurement of disinfection procedures. Dr. Gallardo has successfully closed multiyear programs from BPI France, TTOs and private companies, from hit discovery to validation in infectious animal facilities. He is currently managing a grant from the French Defense Innovation Agency of the Army Ministry (2019-2023), developing medical counter-measures in case of poxvirus outbreak. Frank is a member of ISAR and WSV. He has 8 patents and 30 publications, including 5 journal covers.
Understanding the arenavirus-host cell interface as a guide to the development of novel antiviral approaches
Allison Groseth is a Laboratory Head at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut in Germany. She performed both her undergraduate and graduate training in Canada with a BSc in Biochemistry from the University of Victoria and a PhD in Medical Microbiology from the University of Manitoba. Her PhD work was performed with the Special Pathogens Program of the Public Health Agency of Canada and focused on studying the viral determinants underlying differences in virulence between filovirus species. Her postdoctoral work at the Philipps Universität-Marburg in Germany then focused on identifying host responses associated with arenavirus pathogenesis, particularly those regulating cell death and cytokine expression. Further work as a Staff Scientist in the Laboratory of Virology of the National Institutes of Health at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, focused on similar questions in the context of the emergence of highly-pathogenic orthobunyaviruses, while also looking to identify common host factors associated with infection of many unrelated hemorrhagic fever-causing pathogens. During this time, she was deployed with WHO to Monrovia, Liberia as part of the response to the 2013-2016 West African Ebola outbreak. In 2015 she was recruited to the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut on the Isle of Riems, first as a Junior Group Leader, and since 2020 as a Laboratory Head in the Institute of Molecular Virology and Cell Biology. Her research group continues to focus on understanding the virus-host interface and particularly on developing a detailed mechanistic view of differences in host cell response regulation during infection with highly pathogenic and apathogenic arenaviruses in order to identify critical players in these processes that can serve as antiviral targets. In particular, recent areas of interest include studying the regulation of cell death and cytokine responses, and the role of kinase signaling in these processes, as well as dissecting mechanisms associated with induction (and evasion) of dsRNA-detection.
Genomics characterization and surveillance of microbial threats in West Africa
Christian Happi, is a Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics and Director of the World Bank funded African Center of Excellence for Genomics of infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, Nigeria.
Professor Christian Happi, did his postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University from 2000-2003. He subsequently worked at Harvard University as a Research Scientist (2004-2007) and became an adjunct Professor at Harvard University School of Public Health between 2007-2011.
Professor Happi in an unprecedented way, recently used next generation sequencing technology to perform the first sequence of the new SARS-CoV-2 in Africa, within 48 hours of receiving sample of the first case in Nigeria. This seminal work not only provided an insight into the detailed genetic map of the new coronavirus in Africa and confirmed the origin of the virus, but also paved the way to the development of new countermeasures including new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
He received the Merle A. Sande Health Leadership Award in 2011; the 2016 Award of Excellence in Research, by the Committee of Vice- Chancellors of Nigerian Universities; the 2019 Human Genome Organization (HUGO) Africa Prize for his seminal work on infectious diseases genomics in Africa, including Ebola and Lassa fever, and the 2020 Bailey K. Ashford Medal by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). In 2021, he received The Trinity Challenge Award: Sentinel forecasting systems for Infectious Disease Risk, Africa Lives-Development Award and became a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria.
Fine-tuning prodrugs of acyclic nucleoside phosphonates
Dr. Zlatko Janeba of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB) in Prague, Czech Republic, earned his PhD in chemistry in 2001 from the Institute of Chemical Technology Prague & IOCB (Prof. Antonín Holý supervision). He underwent postdoctoral trainings with Prof. Morris J. Robins (Brigham Young University, Utah) and with Prof. Paul F. Torrance (Northern Arizona University). He spent 3 years as a senior scientist at Moravek Biochemicals, Inc in California. Since 2016, he is the head of the Senior Research Group at IOCB – Medicinal Chemistry of Nucleotide Analogues. His main interest is organic & medicinal chemistry, primarily design and synthesis of modified nucleosides & nucleotides, as well as of other heterocyclic compounds, with a wide range of biological properties (e.g., antiviral, anticancer, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory). As for antivirals, he has been working in the field of NNRTIs, and acyclic nucleoside phosphonates and their prodrugs. Zlatko has been a member of ISAR since 2004 and currently is a member of the ISAR Board of Directors. He has been also serving the society as a reviewer of abstracts for ICAR (since 2016), and as a member of the Poster Award committee and of Women in Science committee (both since 2016). He is a member of the International Society of Nucleosides, Nucleotides and Nucleic Acids (since 2012) and of the International Society of Heterocyclic Chemistry (since 2015). He serves as an associate editor of Antiviral Chemistry & Chemotherapy of Sage journals (since 2016). He has published 112 articles with over 1,400 citations (WoS, September 2022).
Novel biopharmaceutical targeting latent and lytic CMV infection
Dr. Thomas Kledal is CEO and co-founder of Synklino A/S, a Danish biotech company aiming to change the antiviral market by developing transformative therapies that eliminates chronic virus infections risks and enables functional cures. Dr. Kledal is an entrepreneur focused on helping transplant patients “live their life again.” In his CEO role in Synklino, he strives to provide rapid relief as well as to improve long term survival for transplant recipients by seeking fast and safe eradication of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections. The drug candidate SYN002 efficiently eliminates both lytic as well as latently infected cells in culture, and thereby potently inhibits viral replication and eradicates the virus. Synklino is currently moving the lead anti CMV drug candidate into clinical development
Previously, Dr. Kledal had established and headed the Life Science & Bioengineering Innovation Network at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). This network is a cross-departmental innovation mechanism augmenting DTU’s innovation capabilities in collaboration with the life science industries. Based at the departments of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Micro- and Nanotechnology and Photonics Engineering. Before, Dr. Kledal had been Head of Section of the National Veterinary Institute at DTU (DTU-VE) where he led the Section for Virology and established a high impact research organization.
Dr. Kledal has co-authored more than 30 research papers published in journals such as Science (1997) PNAS (2015), Nature Communications (2017) and the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplant (2021).
Structural mechanism of drug resistance to L-nucleosides conferred by the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase M184V mutation
Eric Lansdon, PhD is a Senior Director at Gilead Sciences and the group lead for Structural Biology overseeing protein X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM. A significant portion of Eric’s professional career has focused on blocking HIV Reverse Transcriptase activity with NRTIs, NNRTIs and RNase H inhibitors. During his tenure at Gilead, Eric has played an integral role in the discovery and structural biology characterization of selonsertib (ASK1 inhibitor), entospletinib (Syk inhibitor), lanraplenib (Syk inhibitor), Ainovirin (HIV-1 NNRTI), and rovafovir etalafenamide (HIV-1 NRTI). Eric earned his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from University of California Santa Barbara and PhD in Biochemistry from University of California Davis. In addition, Eric began his career at Gilead as a Postdoctoral Scientist studying resistance mutations in HBV polymerase associated with adefovir treatment and mechanisms of inhibiting HIV-1 RNase H.
Towards AI-driven structure enabled antiviral discovery
Dr. Alpha Lee is the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of PostEra, and a faculty member at the University of Cambridge. He is also a co-Principal Investigator of the NIH-funded Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) center "AI-driven Structure-Enabled Antiviral Platform". Alpha's research focuses on advancing machine learning technologies that accelerate medicinal chemistry for small molecule drug discovery. He was trained at Harvard University (Fulbright Scholar and George F. Carrier Fellow), and University of Oxford (DPhil). Alpha has been named by Forbes as 30 under 30 in Science and Healthcare in Europe.
Women in Science Speaker Award Winner
Structural studies facilitate antiviral drug development targeting the SARS-CoV-2 main protease and variants of concern
Dr. M. Joanne Lemieux is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry, member of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, and Director of Membrane Protein Disease Research Group at the University of Alberta in Canada. She obtained her PhD with Dr. Da Neng Wang at New York University, where she conducted membrane protein crystallography; and conducted her PDF on protease structure and function with Dr. Michael James at the University of Alberta. As a structural biologist, she has made important contributions to understanding protein structure and function. With a diverse research portfolio, her main interests are in the study of proteases in disease states, that includes membrane embedded and viral proteases. She is currently nominated principal applicant of two CIHR grants to develop viral protease inhibitors to treat COVID19: one based on a repurposed feline drug, and a second on developing an oral formulation of a protease inhibitor. Her team is investigating antiviral drugs to develop next-generation oral formulations of SARS-CoV-2 direct acting antivirals and examining the influence of mutations found in variant of SARS-CoV-2 on antiviral function. Dr. Lemieux and is a former CIHR New Investigator and Canada Research Chair, and is the Executive Scientific Director for a submitted CBRF application for a PRAIRIE Hub for Pandemic Preparedness.
Anti-hepatovirus Activity of TENT4A/B Inhibitors
Dr. You Li is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine-Infectious Diseases Division at UNC-Chapel Hill. He received his B.S in Biology from Tsinghua University, Beijing, China in 2005 and completed his PhD degree from Rutgers University in 2011 studying regulation of mRNA degradation. He performed his postdoc training at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the field of molecular virology with Dr. Stanley Lemon, where he made significant discoveries on how host microRNAs protect hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA from exonucleolytic degradation and promote viral replication. Dr. Li’s longstanding research interest has been the interactions between RNA viruses and the host RNA metabolisms and host RNA-binding proteins, and how these interactions shape virus infection. His current project focuses on host factors of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection. His work suggests HAV replication is dependent on the cellular TRAMP-like complex ZCCHC14-TENT4. Small molecule inhibitors of TENT4 dramatically suppress HAV replication in vitro and in mouse models of hepatitis A. Dr. Li is investigating the mechanisms underlying the essential role of TENT4 proteins in HAV life cycle and the potential application of TENT4 inhibitors as therapeutics for treatment of severe hepatitis A infection.
Perspectives for the management of CMV infections in the new era of antiviral agents
Jocelyne Piret obtained her PhD, in biological sciences, at the Catholic University of Louvain (Brussels, Belgium) in 1993. She performed two 3-year postdoctoral fellowships at the same university and at Laval University (Quebec City, Canada). She was appointed a project leader at the Research Center in Infectious Diseases of Laval University in 1999. Her main areas of research include the pathogenesis, prevention and treatment of herpesvirus infections. She participated in the development of microbicides for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and of topical formulations containing antiviral agents for the treatment of cutaneous herpetic lesions. She also has a particular interest in the study of the mechanisms involved in the resistance of herpesviruses to antiviral drugs. Part of her work focusses on the study of the innate immune response during infection of the brain with herpes simplex virus and Zika virus in mouse models. In this context, she participated in the evaluation of immunomodulatory agents that could be combined with antiviral drugs to improve the outcome of herpes simplex virus encephalitis. Recently, she was involved in the study of the concept of viral interference between respiratory viruses. She has authored/co-authored 75 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters.
Single-domain antibodies to control respiratory viruses
Xavier Saelens obtained his PhD degree from the University of Ghent (Ghent, Belgium) in 1990 in the laboratory of Walter Fiers. After postdoctoral training in the influenza research group of Willy Min Jou, and in the Molecular Signaling and Cell Death group of Peter Vandenabeele, both at Ghent University, he became an assistant professor in Molecular Virology in 2008. Currently, he is a full professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Ghent University and a principal investigator at the VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology.
The research team of Xavier Saelens applies modern biotechnology methods to develop new vaccines and antibody-based antivirals against human respiratory viruses such as influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and coronaviruses. In addition, his group uses interactomics tools to gain new insights in the molecular interplay between host and viral factors.Together with Walter Fiers his team pioneered the development of a universal influenza A vaccine candidate and elucidated its mechanism of protection. His group also proposed a new human respiratory syncytial vaccine candidate based on the small hydrophobic protein of this virus, which successfully passed a Phase I clinical study. In addition, the team develops single domain antibodies and formats thereof as new candidate biologics to control disease caused by respiratory viruses.
William Prusoff Memorial Award Winner
Preparing for tomorrow’s pandemics, today through the development of broad-spectrum antivirals
Dr. Timothy Sheahan is an NIH funded virologist working at the host pathogen interface to develop new methods of viral control. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of New Hampshire in 1999, he moved to Boston to try to make a career in punk rock music but soon realized that he enjoyed pipetting more than playing guitar. In 2003, he began his graduate training at UNC Chapel Hill with Dr. Ralph Baric focusing coronavirus (CoV) spillover and the design broadly acting vaccines and therapies. After postdoctoral studies on hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the laboratory of 2020 Nobel Laureate Dr. Charles M. Rice at the Rockefeller University, he became an Investigator at GlaxoSmithKline working to develop host targeting antivirals to treat acute respiratory infections. Tim became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2015. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sheahan and colleagues generated preclinical proof-of-principle data that remdesivir and molnupiravir were broadly active against the CoV family suggesting these antivirals could be employed to treat future emerging CoV. This work helped accelerate the clinical testing of these antivirals in early 2020. Sheahan is currently working to develop broad-spectrum inhibitors of emerging CoV and is also developing mouse models of chronic hepacivirus infection within which to study the effect of antiviral therapy on the development of liver disease and cancer. Sheahan has been active in communicating the importance of antivirals during the pandemic in print media and on television and was even the subject of a feature in GQ Magazine. Three new human CoV have emerged in the past 20 years. Thus, the development of broadly acting therapies for CoV will remain of focus of Dr. Sheahan’s research to be better prepared for tomorrow’s pandemics, today.
Antonín Holý Memorial Award Winner
Tracking the Journey Towards the Discovery of Raltegravir and Grazoprevir: Two Intriguing Tales on Antiviral Drug Discovery
Prof. Vincenzo Summa, PhD obtained the Master Degree in Chemistry at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” in Italy, and the PhD in organic chemistry at the University of Wuppertal in Germany. In 1996, he joined IRBM - Merck Research Laboratory in Italy, as a Research Chemist and subsequently took on positions of increasing responsibility including serving as a Director in the Medicinal Chemistry department.
Vincenzo led the chemistry team that discovered Raltegravir (Isentress™) the first in class HIV integrase inhibitor approved for the treatment of HIV / AIDS patients and Grazoprevir a pangenotype HCV protease inhibitor approved by FDA in combination with Elbasvir (Zepatier™ ) with "Breakthrough Therapy Designation" for HCV interferon free therapy. Isentress™ awarded the Prize Galien USA and EU for the best pharmaceutical agent in 2008.
Vincenzo was awarded as Heroes of Chemistry from American Chemical Society in 2013 for the discovery of Isentress™ and in 2017 for the discovery of Grazoprevir. He was also heavily involved in a number of other antiviral drug discovery projects aimed at the treatment of HIV infection or the cure of HCV.
In 2009, he became a cofounder of IRBM Science Park the spinoff of the Merck Research Lab in Italy where he was appointed Vice President of Drug Discovery. He continued to pursue the research activity in antivirals especially HBV and Zika and neglected disease.
Since 2019, he is full professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Naples Federico II in the department of Pharmacy. The main areas of his research are still antivirals, rare and tropical diseases. Vincenzo is author of many reviewed published papers, and inventor on fifty-five patents, and has presented extensively at international conferences.
The mechanism of RNA capping by SARS-CoV-2
Vincent Tagliabracci received his PhD in 2010 from Indiana University School of Medicine working with Peter Roach. Shortly thereafter, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Jack Dixon at the University of California, San Diego for postdoctoral training. During his postdoctoral research, he discovered the kinases that phosphorylate secreted proteins in humans, including Fam20C, which he showed is the physiological Golgi casein kinase, an enzyme that escaped identification for many years. In 2013, Dr. Tagliabracci received a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence award from the National Institutes of Health.
In 2015 Dr. Tagliabracci joined the department of Molecular Biology as an Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where he was named the Michael L. Rosenberg Scholar in Medical Research and a Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Scholar. His laboratory has made major contributions to our understanding of non-canonical functions for protein kinases by discovering diverse and unanticipated biochemical activities that are performed by this protein superfamily. Most recently, they have discovered that the kinase-like NiRAN domain in the nsp12 protein from SARS-CoV-2 participates in a unique reaction to form the core cap structure GpppA on the viral RNA. Collectively, their work on eukaryotic, prokaryotic, and viral kinases has exposed the catalytic versatility of the protein kinase fold and suggests that atypical kinases and pseudokinases should be analyzed for alternative transferase activities.In 2018 Dr. Tagliabracci was named a Searle Scholar. He received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (DP2) in 2019, the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research from the Welch Foundation in 2020 and a W.M Keck Foundation Medical Research Grant in 2021. In October 2021, Dr. Tagliabracci was named an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
Diversity Speaker Award Winner
How a love of RNA biophysics led to the discovery of a novel antiviral against Enteroviruses
Blanton S. Tolbert is the Rudolph and Susan Rense Professor of Chemistry at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). He is also a member of the Center for RNA Science and Therapeutics. Dr. Tolbert earned his BS degree in Chemistry from the University of SC in 1999 and his PhD in Biophysics and Structural Biology from the University of Rochester in 2007. Dr. Tolbert was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of MD Baltimore County from 2007-2009, where he developed advanced NMR methods to study RNA structures that contribute to packaging of retroviral genomes. He started his independent career in 2009 as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Miami University in Ohio. He was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2015 at Case Western Reserve University, and Professor of Chemistry in 2019. From July 2021 to October 2022, Dr. Tolbert served as the Inaugural Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence at the CWRU School of Medicine and the Associate Director of DEI at Case CCC. He is the acting Chairperson of the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council. On November 1, 2022, Dr. Tolbert was appointed the inaugural Vice President of Science Leadership and Culture at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In this capacity, he provides visionary and strategic leadership of the Center for the Advancement of Science Leadership and Culture. Dr. Tolbert supervises a diverse research group that studies biochemical mechanisms by which RNA and related retroviruses replicate within the cellular environment. Specifically, his group uses structural biophysics to characterize protein-RNA complexes that regulate viral gene expression and then leverages the knowledge gained to identify novel targets for therapeutic intervention. Dr. Tolbert is the recipient of several awards and invited lectureships.
A pan-serotype antiviral to prevent and treat dengue: A journey from discovery to clinical development
Marnix Van Loock is the R&D Lead for Emerging Pathogens in Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, located in Beerse, Belgium. In his current role, he leads dengue compound development and coronavirus therapeutic drug discovery. Additionally, Marnix is a member of the Research and Development Committee, as well as the Development Management Committee which together steers the direction of discovery and development for Global Public Health.
In his work with Dengue, Marnix leads the clinical development of a first-in-class antiviral small molecule for the prevention and treatment of dengue, tackling a major unmet medical need. As part of his role with Coronavirus, Marnix coordinates the antiviral discovery efforts on COVID-19 and related coronaviruses; in collaboration with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In addition, he is the project lead of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) Coronavirus Accelerated R&D in Europe (CARE) consortium.
Marnix has held roles with increasing responsibility throughout his career. In 2004, he joined Tibotec as a Scientist in the HIV Entry Discovery team. After Tibotec was acquired by Johnson & Johnson, he became a member of the HIV Integrase team, coordinating the cell-based assay development. In the 2009-2012 timeframe, Marnix was the biology project lead for the cytomegalovirus latency project. He began leading the dengue compound development starting in 2012 and coronavirus drug discovery in January 2020. Marnix has co-authored more than 25 scientific peer-reviewed publications. He is also the winner of the International Society for Antiviral Research 2019 William Prusoff Young Investigator Award.
Inhibition of emerging viral infections
Sean P. J. Whelan, PhD is the Marvin A. Brennecke Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Whelan pioneered genetic approaches to manipulate the genome of vesicular stomatitis virus - a prototype of the non-segmented negative-sense RNA viruses a class of viruses that includes some of the most significant human, animal and plant pathogens extant. Whelan changed our understanding of gene-expression in this group of viruses through mechanistic studies of the multifunctional viral polymerase proteins and through determination of the first structure of this class of viral polymerase. This work has aided in the development of antiviral drugs against this class of important pathogens. He also engineered this relatively harmless virus to carry envelope proteins from lethal viruses – such as the ones that cause Ebola, Lassa fever, and SARS-CoV-2 – to rapidly and safely learn how such viruses infect cells and replicate. Information gleaned from such studies may help design vaccines or therapies for deadly infectious diseases. Using these tools, Whelan identified the cellular receptors for Ebola, Lassa, Lujo and Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus revealing that receptor molecules resident on endosomal and lysosomal membranes are required for infection. Whelan’s honors and awards include being named a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator in Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease and a Hoffmann-LaRoche Investigator in Molecular Virology, as well as receiving a Young Innovator award from Genzyme and a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2013, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and in 2020 was named the LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals for his work on emerging infectious diseases.
Gertrude Elion Memorial Award Winner
Discovery science for the cure of HBV infection: from the understanding of viral persistence to antiviral targeting
Fabien Zoulim obtained his MD in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Lyon Medical School. He has also obtained a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Paris University and was trained as a post-doctoral researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. He is Professor of Medicine at Lyon I University since 1997. He is Head of the Hepatology Department at the Hospices Civils de Lyon, and Head of the Viral Hepatitis Research Laboratory of INSERM Unit 1052. Dr. Zoulim is currently Associate Editor for GUT. He also served as a Governing Board member of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL). His main research interest is the understanding of hepatitis B virus (HBV) persistence and the identification of novel mechanisms to cure HBV infection. Dr Zoulim received the William Prusoff award of the International Society for Antiviral Research in 2004. He is currently coordinating the ANRS “HBV cure” Task Force in France and the “IP-cure-B” project within the EU H2020 work program. He co-founded the International Coalition to Eliminate HBV (ICE-HBV: http//:www.ice-hbv.org). He has published more than 570 articles (Web of Science H index 88) and was recognized by Clarivate as a highly cited researcher in 2021.
The International Society for Antiviral Research (ISAR) is an internationally recognized organization for scientists involved in basic, applied, and clinical aspects of antiviral research. The Society main event is the annual International Conference on Antiviral Research (ICAR), a truly interdisciplinary meeting which attracts the interest of chemists, biologists, and clinicians.