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Science of COVID-19

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Science of COVID-19 Seminar Series

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Previous Talks

Oct. 5: "Inferring the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 lineages and mutations" 

Jacob Lemieux

Dr. Lemieux is an infectious disease researcher at the Broad Institute, clinician at Massachusetts General Hospital, and faculty member at Harvard Medical School.

Sept. 21: "SARS-CoV-2 specific adaptive immune responses after infection and vaccination"

Daniela Weiskopf

Dr. Weiskopf  is a research assistant professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology.


Aug. 17: "Of Variants and Vaccines"

Nathan Grubaugh

Dr. Grubaugh is an associate professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases) at the Yale School of Public Health. He earned his PhD in microbiology from Colorado State University (focus on West Nile virus evolution), and was a postdoc at The Scripps Research Institute, studying the 2015-2017 Zika virus epidemic. Building on these experiences, the Grubaugh Lab uses genomics to determine the emergence risk and to track the spread of mosquito-borne viruses, like Zika, chikungunya, dengue, and West Nile.

July 27: "SARS-CoV-2 Variants vs Antibodies: An Evolutionary Conflict"

Paul Bieniasz

Dr. Bieniasz seeks to define how host genes influence the replication of viruses, with an emphasis on human and primate immunodeficiency viruses. His lab tries to characterize the host functions that viruses mimic, manipulate, and otherwise exploit, as well as the defenses cells have evolved against viral infection.

June 29: "Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 Variants Under Host Immune Pressure During Acute COVID-19"

Eli Boritz

Eli Boritz is Chief of the Virus Persistence and Dynamics Section (VPDS) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Boritz heads the NIAID Vaccine Research Center's Virus Persistence and Dynamics Section (VPDS), whose goal is to help develop means of targeting virus reservoirs and reducing disease progression in people living with HIV. Motivated by the genetic and functional diversity within key virus reservoirs, the VPDS works to develop and apply high-throughput methods for characterizing large numbers of single cells and viruses in great detail.

June 22: "Direct Sequencing of SARS-COV-2"

Lachlan Coin

Coin is the Deputy Director of the IMB Centre for Superbug Solutions at the University of Queensland. Coin is best known for using approaches borrowed from machine learning, statistics and probability theory to interrogate genomic data. In particular, he has focused on using these approaches to uncover genomic deletions and amplifications and has identified changes that are associated with increased risk of obesity and diabetes.


June 15: "Leveraging Single-Cell Genomics to Understand COVID-19"

Alex Shalek and Alexandra-Chloe Villani

Alex Shalek is the Pfizer-Laubach Career Development Associate Professor at MIT; a Core Member of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES); an Associate Professor of Chemistry; and an Extramural Member of The Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Alexandra-Chloé Villani is an Assistant Investigator at the Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases, Mass General Research Institute; an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School; and a Research Staff member in the Medicine Service-CIID, Massachusetts General Hospital.

June 8: "Early investigations of humoral immunity in the cerebrospinal fluid of COVID-19 patients with neuropsychiatric impairment"

Christopher Bartley

Bartley is a Hanna Gray Fellow at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. Bartley holds a BS in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, and a PhD and MD from Yale. During his psychiatric residency training at UCSF, he studied how antibodies produced by the human immune system can trigger psychiatric symptoms when they mistakenly target the brain instead of infectious microbes.

May 25: "Stabilization of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike receptor-binding domain using deep..."

Daniel Ellis

Ellis a member of the Neil King Lab at the University of Washington. His research involves various strategies for designing improved influenza vaccines with the ultimate goal of a universally-protective vaccine.

May 11: "Pandemic Diseases: A Universal Influenza Virus Vaccine and an NDV-vectored Sars-Cov-2 Vaccine"

Peter Palese

Palese's research is in the area of RNA-containing viruses with a special emphasis on influenza viruses. Specifically, he established the first genetic maps for influenza A, B, and C viruses, identified the function of several viral genes, and defined the mechanism of neuraminidase inhibitors (which are now FDA-approved antivirals). He was also a pioneer in the field of reverse genetics for negative strand RNA viruses, which allows the introduction of site-specific mutations into the genomes of these viruses. This technique is crucial for the study of the structure/function relationships of viral genes, for investigation of viral pathogenicity and for development and manufacture of novel vaccines. 

May 4: "Maximizing breadth and resistance to viral escape in antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain”

Tyler Starr

Starr holds a BA in biology and biochemistry from Willamette University and a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biophysics from the University of Chicago. He is a member of the Bloom Lab, which studies the evolution of proteins and viruses, with a special focus on influenza. 

April 27: Structure-based Design of Vaccine Antigens for SARS-CoV-2"

Jason McLellan

The McLellan Lab is interested in elucidating the molecular mechanisms of host–pathogen interactions, particularly those involving viral glycoproteins. For this research, the lab exploits the synergy that exists between basic and translational science. Namely, the determination of structures and the development of tools needed to answer basic science questions can be translated into therapeutic interventions, which in turn can be used as reagents to further illuminate biological processes.

April 20: "Altered Subgenomic RNA Abundance in SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7"

Matthew Parker

Matt Parker, a clinical bioinformatician at the Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre. Parker is a clinical bioinformatician at the Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre, where he is working with the Sheffield COVID-19 genomics group sequencing the genomes of SARS-CoV-2 as part of COG-UK. Parker and the Sheffield COVID-19 genomics group are interested in detecting the expression (subgenomic RNA) of the SARS-CoV-2 genome using the vast amount of genomic sequencing data being generated worldwide. Applying a tool they developed, periscope, they have been using this data to detect differences in subgenomic RNA abundance between circulating lineages of SARS-CoV-2.

April 13: "COVID-19 vaccination, fertility and pregnancy"

Victoria Male

Victoria is a fellow and lecturer in reproductive immunology at Imperial College London, where she also lectures on the immunology of transplantation, viral immunity and SARS-CoV2 immunology. Male is a Sir Henry Dale Fellow and Lecturer in Reproductive Immunology based in the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction at Imperial College London. Using clinical samples and a novel mouse model, her research group is investigating how innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in the uterus work to establish and maintain pregnancy, and how this may fail in disorders of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth.

April 6: "Deep Immune Profiling of the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)"

Laura Vella

Laura Vella is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Vella's areas of expertise include human immunology, T follicular helper cells, and CD4 T cell responses to chronic infections. She holds a masters in translational research from UPenn and an MD and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

March 30: "Adaptive Immune Responses to SARS-CoV-2"

Alessandro Sette

Alessandro Sette has devoted more than 35 years of study towards understanding the immune response, measuring immune activity, and developing disease intervention strategies against cancer, autoimmunity, allergy, and infectious diseases. His lab is defining in chemical terms the specific structures (epitopes) that the immune system recognizes, and uses this knowledge to measure and understand immune responses. The lab’s approach uses epitopes as specific probes to define the immune signatures associated with productive/protective immunity versus deficient immunity/immunopathology. 


March 23: "Modeling and Predicting Covid-19 Pandemics"

Eran Segal

The Segal Lab is a computational and systems biology lab focusing on nutrition, genetics, microbiome, and gene regulation and their effect on health and disease. The lab aims to develop personalized nutrition and personalized medicine using machine learning, computational biology, probabilistic modeling, and analysis of heterogeneous genomic and clinical data.

March 9: "Interpreting the Evolution of SARS-CoV-2"

Jesse Bloom

Download the presentation slides.

Jesse Bloom is an HHMI Investigator and associate professor in the Basic Sciences Division and in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He studies evolution using viruses and viral proteins as models. Focusing on the influenza virus, he aims to understand how mutations in viral genes shape the pathogen’s ability to infect and spread. He uses computational biology and real-world data to build evolutionary models and examine different scales of viral evolution, from evolution within a single host to evolution on a global scale.

March 2: "Covid-19 Testing: Where Science, Policy and Regulation Collide"

Michael Mina

Michael Mina is an assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a member of the School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD). He is also an associate medical director in clinical microbiology (molecular diagnostics) in the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Mina’s research combines mathematical and epidemiological models with high-throughput phage-display based serological laboratory investigations, including development of new technologies and statistical pipelines to better understand the population and immunological consequences and patterns underlying infectious diseases. He earned his MD and PhD from Emory University.


Feb. 23: "SARS-CoV-2 evolution during treatment of chronic infection"

Ravindra Gupta

Ravindra Gupta is a professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Cambridge. He focuses on host-pathogen and drug-pathogen interactions to inform HIV treatment and curative strategies. In particular, this includes in vitro HIV drug resistance to protease inhibitors and its implications for global scale up of antiretroviral therapy, and investigating the details of macrophage infection in clinical isolates.

Feb. 16: "Systems Serology to Assess SARS-CoV-2-specific Placental Antibody Transfer"

Galit Altar

Abstract: SARS-CoV-2 infection causes more severe disease in pregnant women compared to age-matched non-pregnant women. Whether maternal infection causes changes in the transfer of immunity to infants remains unclear. Maternal infections have previously been associated with compromised placental antibody transfer, but the mechanism underlying this compromised transfer is not established. The Alter Lab has used their unique systems serology antibody profiling approach to characterize the Fc-profile of influenza-, pertussis-, and SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies transferred across the placenta. Influenza- and pertussis-specific antibodies were actively transferred. However, SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody transfer was significantly reduced compared to influenza- and pertussis-specific antibodies, and cord titers and functional activity were lower than in maternal plasma. This effect was only observed in third trimester infection. SARS-CoV-2-specific transfer was linked to altered SARS-CoV-2-antibody glycosylation profiles and was partially rescued by infection-induced increases in IgG and increased FCGR3A placental expression. These results point to unexpected compensatory mechanisms to boost immunity in neonates, providing insights for maternal vaccine design.

Feb. 9: "Adaptive Immunity and Immune Memory to SARS-CoV-2 after COVID-19"

Shane Crotty

Crotty's team studies immunity against infectious diseases and investigates how the immune system remembers infections and vaccines. He is the author of Ahead of the Curve, a biography of scientist and Nobel laureate David Baltimore, published in 2001. He earned his BS in biology and writing from MIT and his PhD in molecular biology/virology from UCSF.


Feb. 2: "Diverse Functional Autoantibodies in Patients with COVID-19"

Aaron Ring

Aaron joined the faculty of the Yale Department of Immunobiology in 2016 as the Robert T. McCluskey Yale Scholar. The focus of his research is to understand and manipulate the activity of immune receptors using precision immunopharmacology and systems immunology.

Jan. 26: "Epidemiological phenotype of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 variant"

Neil Ferguson

Neil's research aims to improve understanding of the epidemiological factors and population processes shaping infectious disease spread in human and animal populations.

Jan. 19: "Immune History and SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Responses: Lessons Learned from Influenza Viruses”

Scott Hensley

Abstract: SARS-CoV-2 has rapidly spread within the human population. Although SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus, most humans have been previously exposed to other antigenically distinct common seasonal human coronaviruses before the COVID-19 pandemic. In this seminar, Hensley will describe how previous coronavirus exposures potentially impact immune responses and susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. He will also discuss how immune history impacts susceptibility to pandemic influenza viruses and speculate that similar mechanisms may be applicable to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Jan. 12, 2021: "Host Factor Targeted Drug Discovery for SARS-CoV-2 Through an International Collaboration”

Kevan Shokat and Nevan Krogan

Research in the Shokat Lab is focused on the discovery of new small molecule tools and drug candidates targeting protein/lipid kinases, GTPases, and RNA helicases.

The Krogan lab focuses on fundamental biological mechanisms, because cures to many diseases have been revealed by unexpected discoveries in the basic sciences.

Dec. 15, 2020: The Science of COVID-19: Background, Hurdles and Prospects

Michel Nussenzweig

Dr. Nussenzweig is the Zanvil A. Cohn and Ralph M. Steinman Professor and a senior physician at The Rockefeller University. He is also the head of the university's Laboratory of Molecular Immunology and the director of the Christopher Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases. Nussenzweig’s laboratory studies the molecular aspects of the immune system’s innate and adaptive responses using a combination of biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics.


Dec. 8, 2020: "New frontiers in SARS-CoV-2 functional genomics"

Neville Sanjana

Neville Sanjana's research interests include bioengineering, genomics, neuroscience, cancer biology, and systems biology. His lab at NYU develops technologies to understand how human genetic variants cause diseases of the nervous system and cancer

Dec. 1 "Systemic inflammation and other unexpected surprises in the host response to SARS-CoV-2”.

Benjamin tenOever

Dr. Benjamin tenOever is the Fishberg Professor of Medicine, Icahn Scholar and Professor of Microbiology, and Director, Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He holds a PhD in medicine from McGill University and completed his postdoctoral training in molecular biology at Harvard University.

Nov. 23, 2020: Going Retro and Translational in a Time of COVID"

Robert Tjian

Robert Tijan is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Trained as a biochemist, he has made major contributions to the understanding of how genes work during three decades at Berkeley. He was named an HHMI investigator in 1987 and served as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2009 until 2016.


Nov. 10, 2020: “The neutralizing antibody response to SARS-CoV-2”

Paul Bieniasz

The Bieniasz Lab seeks to define how host genes influence the replication of viruses, with an emphasis on human and primate immunodeficiency viruses. His lab tries to characterize the host functions that viruses mimic, manipulate, and otherwise exploit, as well as the defenses cells have evolved against viral infection.

Oct. 27, 2020: "Evolutionary Potential of the SARS-CoV-2 Receptor Binding Domain (RBD)"

Jesse Bloom

Dr. Bloom is an HHMI Investigator and associate professor in the Basic Sciences Division and associate professor in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch.

Oct. 7, 2020: "Aerosolized Nanobodies for SARS-COV-2 Passive Immunization"

Aashish Mangli

Dr. Manglik's lab is focused on decoding the molecular basis of transmembrane signaling and transport. The particular systems we study lie at the intersection of human health and protein science.


Sept. 29, 2020: "Nextstrain, Sequencing and the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic"

Emma Hodcroft

Dr. Emma Hodcroft is a researcher at the University of Basel and the co-developer of NextStrain, an open-source toolkit built for real-time tracking of viral outbreaks.

Sept. 22, 2020: "The CLIAHUB - student volunteer run COVID testing"

Joe DeRisi

Prof. DeRisi's lab at UCSF exploits whole genome approaches to tackle problems in yeast molecular biology and human infectious disease, focusing on Plasmodium falciparum, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and searching for a link between asthma and viral infection.

Sept. 8, 2020: "Neurological Complications of Coronaviruses"

Avindra Nath

Avindra Nath, MD is a Senior Investigator in the Section of Infections of the Nervous System at NINDS. His research focuses on understanding the pathophysiology of retroviral infections of the nervous system and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for these diseases.

Aug. 27, 2020: "Epidemiology of COVID-19: What we know, what we need to know"

Marc Lipsitch

Dr. Lipsitch is a professor of epidemiology in the Department of Epidemiology and the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also the director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

Aug. 18, 2020: "Deployment of convalescent plasma against COVID-19"

Arturo Casadevall

Dr. Casadevall is a Professor of Medicine and the Chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is a globally known expert in humoral immunity, molecular biology, virulence and cryptococcosis. His lab studies how microbes cause disease and how hosts, such as humans, protect themselves against microbes.

Aug. 13, 2020: “Ask the Expert - Q&A session/open discussion forum"

Angela Rasmussen

Dr. Rasmussen is a virologist studying host responses to infection by combining classical virology with modern systems biology approaches. Her research objectives are to identify host response signatures predictive of infection severity or disease outcome and host pathways to target drug development or repurposing.

Aug. 6, 2020: “Ask the Expert - Q&A session/open discussion forum"

Florian Krammer

Dr. Florian Krammer is a Professor of Vaccinology in the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the principal investigator of the Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC).

July 30, 2020: “Coronaviruses: Part I, History and biology and Part II, Coronavirus antagonism of double-stranded RNA induced antiviral pathways”

Susan Weiss,

Dr. Weiss Is a professor and vice Chair, Department of Microbiology; Co-Director, Penn Center for Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens. Her lab at Penn focuses on murine and human coronavirus pathogenesis, including MHV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV using an MHV mouse model for studying acute viral encephalitis, chronic demyelinating diseases (such as Multiple Sclerosis), virus-induced hepatitis, and severe acute respiratory diseases.

July 23, 2020; "Swabseq"

Sri Kosuri

Dr. Kosuri is an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA.His laboratory develops technologies for reading and writing DNA and applying them to various applications to better understand and engineer biology.  

July 9, 2020: “Detecting, dissecting, and disabling the SARS-CoV-2 spike.”

Kartik Chandran

Dr. Chandran is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. At Einstein, he oversees a team of researchers investigating the molecular mechanisms of infection by emerging viruses and the development of countermeasures against these agents Dr. Chandran’s research has focused on filoviruses, including Ebola virus and Marburg virus, since 2003.

July 2, 2020: “Immune response to SARS-CoV-2.”

Akiko Iwasaki

Dr. Iwasaki is an HHMI Investigator and Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Department of Immunobiology, and of Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology. Akiko Iwasaki’s research focuses on the mechanisms of immune defense against viruses at the mucosal surfaces. 

June 25, 2020: "Six months of the US COVID-19 outbreak"

Keith Jerome

Dr. Jerome is a renowned virologist whose research focuses on viruses such as herpes simplex, HIV and hepatitis B that persist in their hosts. He studies the ways in which these viruses evade the immune system and potential therapies for these infections.

June 18, 2020: "Host-Directed Therapeutics Discovery and Correlates of Disease Severity"

Angela Rasmussen

Dr. Rasmussen is a virologist studying host responses to infection by combining classical virology with modern systems biology approaches. Her research objectives are to identify host response signatures predictive of infection severity or disease outcome and host pathways to target drug development or repurposing.

June 11, 2020: “Antibody responses to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein."

Florian Krammer

Dr. Krammer is a professor of vaccinology in the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the principal investigator of the Sinai-Emory Multi-Institutional Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Center (SEM-CIVIC). CIVIC aims to develop improved seasonal and universal influenza virus vaccines that induce long-lasting protection against drifted seasonal, zoonotic and future pandemic influenza viruses.

June 4, 2020: "Saliva as a viable sample type for SARS-CoV-2 detection in COVID-19 patients."

Anne Wyllie

Dr. Wyllie, Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health,

May 28, 2020: "De novo design of SARS-COV2 candidate diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines"

David Baker

Dr. Baker is an HHMI Investigator and professor of biochemistry and an adjunct professor of genome sciences, bioengineering, chemical engineering, computer science, and physics at the University of Washington, Seattle. His research group is focused on the prediction and design of macromolecular structures, interactions and functions.

May 14, 2020: "Preparing for tomorrow’s pandemics, today."

Timothy Sheahan

Dr. Sheahan is an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health. He is a virologist and his research is focused on understanding emerging viral diseases and developing new means to stop them.

May 7, 2020: "Cellular recognition and response to SARS-CoV-2 and its contribution to the development of COVID-19."

Benjamin tenOever

Dr. tenOever is the Fishberg Professor of Medicine, Icahn Scholar and Professor of Microbiology, and Director, Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He holds a PhD in medicine from McGill University and completed his postdoctoral training in molecular biology at Harvard University.

April 30, 2020: “Protein-protein interaction map of SARS-CoV-2, with implications for drug targets."

Kevan Shokat

Dr. Shokat is a professor and vice-chair of the department of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco, and a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

Nevan Krogan

Dr. Nevan Krogan serves as Professor, Cellular Molecular Pharmacology in the School of Medicine at UCSF. His lab at UCSF focuses on developing and applying quantitative, systematic proteomic and genetic approaches to study complex biological and biomedical problems.

April 23, 2020: “Where is Euler Now that We Need Him?”

Robert B. Phillips

Dr. Phillips is the Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics, Biology, and Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include the physical biology of the cell, biophysical theory, single-molecule experiments, and single-cell experiments. He holds a BS from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from Washington University.

April 16, 2020: "The Molecular Biology of Coronavirus Infection."

Britt A. Glaunsinger

Dr. Glaunsinger is an associate professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3).

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