Associate professor of microbiology & immunology
Emerging viral pathogens pose a serious threat to public health and researchers must act quickly to identify new viruses and develop effective therapeutics to treat or prevent infection.
Lijun Rong is working on identifying small drug molecules that can prevent some of the most dangerous viruses — including Ebola, Marburg and MERS — from infecting cells. He uses a high-throughput screening facility to screen and identify drugs and agents for their virus-blocking potential. By removing proteins on the viral surface involved in recognizing, binding to and entering host cells, and affixing them to much less dangerous viruses, Rong can safely test agents that interfere cell infection.
So far, he and his colleagues have identified a few lead molecules that show promise against Ebola. Mice given one of these compounds had an 80 percent survival rate when exposed to the Ebola virus in the lab, compared to zero percent for the mice that didn’t get the compound.
He is also searching for small molecules to prevent infection with H7N9, a new strain of the avian influenza virus that caused an outbreak in China in March 2013.