David J. Veesler, Ph.D.

2017 Pew Biomedical Scholars
Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Biochemistry
Institution
University of Washington
Address
1959 NE Pacific St
City, State, Zip
Seattle, WA 98195
Phone
(206) 616-8753
E-mail
dveesler@uw.edu
Website
http://faculty.washington.edu/dveesler/
Research Field
Virology
Award Year
2017

Research

My research group intends to design a vaccine that is effective against the coronaviruses that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Coronaviruses, which cause a variety of respiratory infections, use a trimeric spike protein to gain entry into human cells and initiate infection. The spike protein is also the virus’s Achilles’ heel, serving as a target for neutralizing antibodies produced by the host immune system. Recently, I leveraged methodological developments in cryo-electron microscopy to determine for the first time the precise, three-dimensional architecture of a coronavirus spike protein. Combining this approach with other cutting-edge methods in immunology, molecular biology, and protein design, I will characterize the structures of the spike proteins from the MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and other coronaviruses to understand host adaptation and identify epitopes that could be targeted by neutralizing antibodies. Based on this information, I will engineer and test vaccine candidates designed to elicit a vigorous immune response—work that could represent a major advance in treating these human infections for which there are currently no approved antivirals or vaccines.

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