Prof. Erica Ollmann Saphire
Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D. is a Professor of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Her research explains, at the molecular level, how and why viruses like Ebola and Lassa are pathogenic and provides the roadmap for medical defense. Her team has solved the structures of the Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, Bundibugyo and Lassa virus glycoproteins, explained how they remodel these structures as they drive themselves into cells, how their proteins suppress immune function and where human antibodies can defeat these viruses. A recent discovery revealed why neutralizing antibodies had been so difficult to elicit against Lassa virus, and provided not only the templates for the needed vaccine, but the molecule itself: a Lassa surface glycoprotein engineered to remain in the right conformation to inspire the needed antibody response. This molecule is the basis for international vaccine efforts against Lassa. Dr. Saphire was also the galvanizing force behind the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium and is the Director of this organization. This consortium, an NIH-funded Center of Excellence in Translational Research, unites 44 previously competing academic, industrial and government labs across five continents to understand and provide antibody therapeutics against Ebola, Marburg, Lassa and other viruses.
Benjamin tenOever, PhD
Dr. tenOever completed his postdoctoral training in biochemistry from Harvard after receiving his PhD in medicine from McGill. Thereafter, he began his own independent group at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Department of Microbiology and is presently an Arthur and Irene Fishberg Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR). His research interests center on the biology of virus and host interactions.
Over the past ten years, the tenOever lab has used synthetic biology to alter the behavior of a wide variety of viruses in order to better understand both how they cause disease and how they might be harnessed for use in genetic therapies. Through the support of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, the tenOever lab has developed a molecular toolbox that enables everything from novel vaccine platforms to the capacity to transform viruses into tools for genetic engineering. As many of these designs rely on the exploitation of the cellular machinery, this work has also revealed novel insights into the mechanics by which cells can inhibit virus and how these activities have evolved over evolutionary time. Dr. tenOever’s research program has been recognized through awards from the Pew Biomedical Trust, Burroughs Wellcome Trust, the Fulbright Foundation and the President of the United States.
In addition to research, Dr. tenOever is also passionate about scientific communication. Often described as having an ‘infectious enthusiasm’, Dr. tenOever has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to teaching medical students, graduate students, and maintaining numerous community outreach programs including a high school-based virus discovery program. For more information, please see: http://bit.ly/tenOever