Emerging zoonotic viruses cross the species barrier from animals to humans or vice-versa. Their ability to propagate in human cells is dependent on a variety of factors, most importantly, the ability to target particular cell types by binding to receptor molecules displayed on the surface of the host cell. Our group is interested in applying techniques in structural biology, immunology, and cell biology, to delineate the role of viral glycoproteins during infection and antibody-mediated neutralization. We are particularly interested in studying tropical and exotic RNA viruses for which there are limited vaccines or treatments and which are often underrepresented in terms of academic and pharmaceutical interest.
Our biophysical studies have revealed common strategies by which viruses have evolved to interact with natural hosts and also support molecular-level rationales for how viruses can be transmitted to unrelated organisms and thus pose severe health risks. Ultimately, the structural information revealed from this work is being aimed towards the development of therapeutic antibodies and antiviral reagents which can inhibit viral entry processes.