Alex Freiberg, PhD

The principle focus of Dr. Freiberg's research encompasses efforts to understand viral pathogenesis, virus assembly, and vaccine and antiviral drug development. One main research interest is in understanding the molecular mechanisms by which emerging RNA viruses cause encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever diseases. They are characterizing the host innate immune response and activation of cellular signaling pathways of human cells following viral infection, with a major interest on infections caused by Nipah and Hendra viruses, as well as Rift Valley fever virus. The goal of this project is to better understand the role that the host cell-mediated immune response may play in development of encephalitis and hemorrhagic fever diseases. These studies are being performed in BSL-3E and BSL-4 containment facilities. In addition, another project focuses on understanding the structure and assembly of high-containment classified viruses, with a major focus on bunyaviruses using cryo-electron microscopy and biophysical techniques. They have determined the three-dimensional structure of Rift Valley fever virus, and are analyzing the arrangement and interaction of the two viral glycoproteins within the virus particle. This information can be utilized to develop structure-based vaccines and antivirals. In collaboration with partners in academia and in biotechnology, they are also working on the identification and characterization of broad spectrum antivirals and on testing novel vaccine platforms against Filo-, Bunya-, Henipa-, Arena- and Flaviviruses.

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