Lijun Rong, PhDProfessor
PhD, Purdue University
Molecular Virology: Mechanisms of Viral Entry and Antivirals
Our laboratory is focused on elucidating the entry mechanisms of several emerging or reemerging viral pathogens and on developing potential antiviral therapeutics. Currently we are focusing the following viruses: filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg viruses), influenza viruses, arenaviruses, SARS-CoV/MERS-CoV, human immunodeficiency viruses (HIVs).
Our laboratory is equipped with a state of art high throughput screening facility (HTS) with cell culture capacity. With this HTS facility, we are able to perform large-scale experiments and generate large sets of data, providing the research foundation for both basic research and translational research. From the basic research perspective, my group recently performed genome-wide siRNA screens to identify the host proteins important for viral entry and replication. These screens have implicated many host proteins which seem to be important for filoviral and influenza viral entry and HIV replication. The overall objective of our current and future research is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which these proteins are involved in viral infection and replication. These mechanistic insights may be used in turn for translational research because some of these host factors can be ideal antiviral targets. From the translational research perspective, we have screened several small molecule libraries, and have identified many potent inhibitors against filoviruses, arenaviruses, influenza viruses, and HIV. We are currently validating these hits and performing mechanism of action (MOA) studies to characterize these inhibitors. The overall objective is to develop therapeutics against these deadly human viral pathogens.
One important aspect of our research is that we have established long-term, highly productive collaborations with many groups, including both collaborators at academic institutions and industry.
We are particularly interested in the following areas:
- Identification and characterization of the cellular receptor(s) for a particular virus
- Molecular, biochemical and structural analysis of the viral glycoproteins
- Mechanisms of glycoprotein/receptor interactions in membrane fusion and viral entry
- Development of therapeutic inhibitors against specific viral entry and infection