Department of Virology and Immunology
In the Department of Virology and Immunology, our scientists are working to save lives through the development of vaccines and treatments against viruses that cause AIDS, herpes, Ebola virus disease and other hemorrhagic fevers. Virology and Immunology scientists have the expertise and facilities to respond to emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases.
Researchers are examining how viruses replicate and cause disease to identify their Achilles’ heel. Additionally, they study how the immune system recognizes a virus and how best to stimulate immune response to clear viral infections. With this knowledge, scientists hope to develop new vaccines to prevent viral infections.
Major Research Projects
Ongoing research efforts are focused on the following areas:
- High consequence pathogens and bio threats
Unknown and poorly characterized pathogens are most likely to be disruptive to our everyday lives and yet still take time to find cures. Work in our BSL4 prepares us for such surprises.
- Ebola virus and other filoviruses
- Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases
- AIDS Research Program
Despite progress made in the fight against AIDS, the World Health Organization still estimates that this devastating disease will take the lives of nearly 68 million people over the next 20 years.
Technical Resources and Capabilities
Biosafety level four (BSL-4) maximum containment laboratory
The department’s state-of-the-art facilities include the nation’s only privately owned biosafety level four (BSL-4) maximum containment laboratory. This facility – which has proven especially beneficial in support of the nation’s biodefense efforts – allows Institute scientists to safely study pathogens for which there currently is no known treatment or vaccine. Scientists in the department are using the BSL4 to advance vaccines and therapies against Ebola.
These labs are often described as “spacesuit labs” because scientists who work in them wear protective suits that serve as an effective barrier between them and the agents they study. Numerous other safety and security measures are engaged to ensure that both the scientists working inside and the environment outside the lab have the utmost protection from the agents under investigation.