- Sir Henry Dale Fellow/ Lecturer (Centre for Virus Research)
Influenza viruses are globally important pathogens that cause a significant seasonal disease burden. The ability of influenza viruses to infect many animal species also contributes to the ever-present threat of a novel strain starting a new human pandemic, with potentially devastating consequences. Some vaccines and antivirals are currently available for the prevention and treatment of influenza, however it often takes too long to manufacture, distribute, and administer an effective strain-matched vaccine under pandemic circumstances. In addition, influenza viruses mutate very rapidly and drug-resistant mutants often emerge against currently approved antivirals.
The aim of my work is to understand fundamental host cell processes that modulate replication of human, swine, and avian influenza viruses. This could establish an intellectual framework for the development of new host-orientated intervention strategies. By targeting cellular pathways, the issue of rapid viral resistance arising should be heavily diminished.
I am particularly interested in trying to understand the intricate virus-host interplay that occurs within cellular signalling response cascades as invading influenza viruses attempt to 're-wire their new homes'. I aim to integrate cellular, molecular, and structural approaches to understand how such interactions affect virus replication/virulence, and perhaps to reveal new insights into normal cell biology by studying viral hijacking strategies. One particular interest is host phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), a druggable survival-signalling enzyme that is deregulated in many human cancers, and which is uniquely and exquisitely activated by the influenza A virus NS1 protein virulence factor. Another major focus of my group is a developing programme to catalogue the spectrum of signalling events associated with ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like (e.g. SUMO) modification during influenza virus infection.