Basic and Translational Research on Emerging RNA Viruses
As our world grows more interconnected and humans impinge on the few remaining wild habitats, infections caused by the accidental transmission of viruses from their natural animal hosts to humans are increasingly of concern. The unprecedented 2013–2015 Ebola virus disease epidemic in western Africa provides a particularly apt example. Few specific antiviral treatments are available for Ebola and other emerging agents, and our ability to develop them is challenged by a poor understanding of exactly how viruses co-opt our own cells at the molecular level.
The Chandran Lab at Einstein strives to understand this molecular warfare between virus and cell, and to apply what we learn to the development of antiviral treatments. Filoviruses, such as Ebola virus and Marburg virus, and hantaviruses, such as Sin Nombre virus and Hantaan virus, are major topics of study in our group. Working collaboratively with our partners on three continents, we have helped uncover critical host factors required for cell invasion by Ebola virus, including the long-sought viral receptor, Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1). One of our recent interests is to decipher how genetic variation in host-encoded factors—in NPC1, for example—can influence the susceptibility of humans and animals to viral infection and the likelihood of animal-to-human 'host-jumping' events. Our ongoing efforts also include translational studies to develop anti-Ebola drugs, including small molecule and antibody therapeutics, targeting viral and host factors critical for infection.