Brian A. Kelch, Ph.D.

Research

I aim to take apart the engine that drives the production of many disease-causing viruses. Most viruses consist of a set of genetic instructions—either DNA or RNA—inside a container made of protein. For viruses that use double-stranded DNA as their genetic material, including herpes virus and the adenovirus that causes respiratory infections, the protein-based shell or “capsid” is assembled first, and the viral DNA is then pumped into it. The molecular machine that performs this pumping is one of the strongest biological motors known: the pressure inside the tight confines of the filled viral capsid is 10 times that of bottled champagne. My laboratory will explore how this motor recognizes the viral DNA and how it pushes this DNA into the capsid, using an innovative combination of structural, biochemical and biophysical techniques. This work will reveal in exceptional detail the workings of this remarkable motor and provide new targets for antiviral therapies.

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