Virology Research

Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CBEID) research on viruses that cause tropical and emerging infectious diseases, as well as those that can be used as biological weapons, can be divided into arthropod-borne (arboviruses) and rodent-borne viruses, and those that rely on other reservoir hosts including humans. All but the latter groups are zoonotic viruses that utilize wild animals as reservoir hosts, and cause disease in humans and domestic animals following “spillover” of zoonotic cycles, or adaptation to use humans or domestic animals as amplification hosts. The approaches used to study these viral diseases include basic research on viral replication and pathogenesis.

Many CBEID members are also engaged in research involving the biology and ecology of arthropod vectors, and the interrelationships between the vectors, hosts, and viral disease agents they transmit. Epidemiology (including molecular epidemiology) and epizootiology are also focus areas of research. Building on discoveries made in their basic research, many investigators are invested in the development of novel antiviral treatments, and new or improved vaccines for viral diseases. Computational and structural biology approaches employing advanced imaging techniques (such as cryoelectron microscopy in BSL3 containment) are also strengths of our virology research program.

Areas of Viral Research Faculty Members
1. Arboviruses  
Alphaviruses: Venezuelan,
eastern, and western equine encephalitis viruses,
chikungunya virus
Paige Adams, Patricia Aguilar, Naomi Forrester, Slobodan Paessler, Robert Tesh, Stan Watowich,
Scott Weaver

Rift Valley fever virus
Dennis Bente, Tetsuro Ikegami, Shinji Makino, John Morrill,
CJ Peters, Kent Tseng, Stan Watowich
West Nile virus, dengue virus, yellow fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus

Alan Barrett, Dennis Bente, David Beasley,
Robert Tesh,
Nikos Vasilakis,
Tina Wang, Stan Watowich
2. Rodent-borne viruses  
Arenaviruses: Machupo virus, Junin virus, Lassa virus
Patricia Aguilar, Charles Fulhorst, Tom Ksiazek, Slobodan Paessler, CJ Peters
Bunyaviruses: hantaviruses Charles Fulhorst, Tom Ksiazek, CJ Peters
3. Non-zoonotic diseases  
Viruses that cause hepatitis A, B and C Nigel Bourne, Jiaren Sun, Kent Tseng
Influenza and other respiratory viruses (SARS coronavirus) Alexander Bukreyev, Jim LeDuc, Joan Nichols,
Shinji Makino, CJ Peters, Kent Tseng
HIV Benjamin Gelman, Miles Cloyd, William O'Brien
4. Tropical and emerging viral pathogens  
Filoviruses (Marburg virus, Ebola virus)

Alexander Bukreyev,
Tom Geisbert, Tom Ksiazek, CJ Peters
Nipah and Hendra viruses

Alexander Freiberg, Tom Geisbert,
Tom Ksiazek, CJ Peters, Barry Rockx
monkeypox Robert Tesh
5. Epidemiology and vector ecology

Melanie de Boer, Charles Fulhorst,
Robert Tesh,
Saravanan Thangamani, Scott Weaver
6. Antiviral treatments

Alan Barrett, Nigel Bourne,
Scott Weaver, Stan Watowich, Bruce Luxon
7. Vaccine development

Paige Adams, Alan Barrett, David Beasley, Dennis Bente,
Nigel Bourne, Bruce Luxon, Shinji Makino,
Martin Myers, Slobodan Paessler, CJ Peters, Robert Tesh, Stan Watowich, Scott Weaver
8. Structural biology

Werner Braun, Kyung Choi,
Bruce Luxon, Vsevolod Popov,
Michael Sherman, Stan Watowich, Scott Weaver

Most of the funding for virology research programs comes from federally-funded Principal Investigator grants from the NIH and CDC. The NIAID-sponsored Western Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research grant also funds vaccine development for alphaviruses, Junin virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and Rift Valley fever virus. Vaccine development is fostered on campus by the UTMB Sealy Center for Vaccine Development. Arthropod- and rodent-borne viruses are collected and studied by the World Reference Center for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses under the direction of Dr. Robert Tesh.

Some of the viruses under study in the CBEID are classified as biosafety level 4 agents that require special containment in the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) and/or the Robert E. Shope, MD Laboratory in the John Sealy Pavilion for Infectious Diseases Research (also known as the Shope Laboratory). Additional facilities for virology research include the W. M. Keck Center for Virus Imaging located in the Blocker Medical Research Building, and BSL3 facilities in the GNL, Keiller Building, and Mary Moody Northen Pavilion.

Training of many virology graduate students and postdoctoral fellows is supported by the McLaughlin Fellowship Fund, as well as the NIH T32 predoctoral and postdoctoral training grants on tropical and emerging infectious diseases and biodefense, and computational and structural biology in biodefense. The W.M. Keck Center for Virus Imaging also sponsors pre- and postdoctoral fellows in virology.

Structural, physical, and quantitative biology are supported by the Sealy Center for Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics.