The overarching research goal of my laboratory is to understand the mechanisms governing viral replication, with the rationale that the discoveries from my research will expand our knowledge of both viruses and their hosts, and facilitate the development of novel strategies to combat viral and non-viral diseases. A parallel goal of my laboratory is to provide a highly supportive environment to train the next generations of scientists. My ongoing research focuses on how viruses interact with two cellular housekeeping processes: protein synthesis and metabolism. I currently mainly use vaccinia virus as the research model. Vaccinia virus is the prototype poxvirus. Poxviruses significantly impact public health, with many presently causing morbidity and mortality in humans and many economically important animals, including deadly zoonotic pathogens (e.g., monkeypox virus). In addition, despite the eradication of smallpox, one of the most (if not the most) devastating diseases in human history, smallpox resurgence remains a serious biothreat. Poxviruses are also widely developed as veterinary and human vaccine vectors and as cancer treatment agents. Poxviruses provide numerous precious tools to understand many aspects of cell biology and dissect complex life processes, as their large DNA genomes encode hundreds of genes that engage many key nodes of cellular life.
My current research focuses on how virus interacts with two cellular house-keeping processes: protein synthesis and metabolism. All viruses rely on host translation machinery and metabolism for replication. These cellular processes are interfaces of highly active virus-host interactions. We aim to elucidate the mechanisms of how a virus (e.g., vaccinia virus) exploits/modulates these cellular functions during infection. We integrate biochemical, molecular, and many omics (genomics, transcriptomics, translatomics, proteomics, and metabolomics) approaches to answer our questions. Taking advantage of our in-depth knowledge of the poxvirus replication and virus-host interactions, we are also developing vaccinia virus-based utilities and anti-virals.