Center for Viral Systems Biology

We are a group of scientists interested in understanding what genetic, immunological, and physiological factors determine the outcome of human disease from viral infections.

Leadership

Kristian Andersen

Kristian Andersen

Director & Principal Investigator

Associate Professor
Scripps Research

Bio: Kristian Andersen, PhD is an associate professor in the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, with joint appointments in the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology, and at the Scripps Research Translational Institute. Over the past decade, his research has focused on the complex relationship between host and pathogen. Using a combination of next-generation sequencing, field work, experimentation, and computational biology he has spearheaded large international collaborations investigating the spread and evolution of deadly pathogens, including Zika virus, Ebola virus, West Nile virus, and Lassa virus. His work is highly cross-disciplinary and exceptionally collaborative.

Kristian earned his doctoral degree from the University of Cambridge in immunology and performed postdoctoral work in Pardis Sabeti's group at Harvard University and the Broad Institute. He has received several awards, including the Max Perutz Prize in 2008, a Carlsberg Foundation Fellowship in 2009, and was chosen as a PEW Biomedical Scholar in 2016.

Role: Dr. Andersen is the PI for the Center and is leading the Admin Core and Project 2. In addition to overseeing all Center activities, he is investigating viral factors influencing the outcome of human infection with Ebola virus and Lassa virus.

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Robert Garry

Co-director

Professor
Tulane University

Bio: Robert F. Garry, Ph.D. is Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Associate Dean for the Graduate Program in BioMedical Sciences at Tulane Medical School. Dr. Garry carried out doctoral studies in Microbiology at the University of Texas at Austin under the direction of Dr. Marilynn R.F. Waite and received his Ph.D. in 1978.

His lab interacts with a consortium of academic, industrial and industry scientists who are developing countermeasures, including diagnostics, immunotherapeutics and vaccines, against Lassa virus, Ebola and Marburg viruses, flaviviruses and other high consequence pathogens. Other efforts include structural and molecular investigations to deepen understanding of the pathogenesis of viral hemorrhagic fevers while providing training for West African scientists and further developing research and clinical trial infrastructure in Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Role: Dr. Garry, together with Dr. Andersen, is managing the operations of CViSB in his role as Co-Director. He is also leading Project 1, where he is investigating host responses following infection with Ebola virus and Lassa virus. Together with Dr. Schieffelin, he also oversees the clinical operations in Sierra Leone.

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Andrew Su

Lead, Data & Bioinformatics Core

Professor
Scripps Research

Bio: Andrew I. Su, Ph.D. is a Professor at Scripps Research in the Department of Integrative, Structural and Computational Biology. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Scripps in 2002.

His research focuses on building and applying bioinformatics infrastructure for biomedical discovery. His research has a particular emphasis on leveraging crowdsourcing for genetics and genomics. Representative projects include the Gene Wiki, BioGPS, MyGene.Info, and Mark2Cure, each of which engages “the crowd” to help organize biomedical knowledge. These resources are collectively used millions of times every month by members of the research community, by students, and by the general public.

Role: Dr. Su is leading the Data and Bioinformatics Core where he is coordinating all data collections, analyses, and public releases across CViSB.

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Marc Suchard

Lead, Modeling Core

Professor
University of California, Los Angeles

Bio: Marc A. Suchard, M.D./Ph.D is a Professor at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). He received a bachelor’s degree in biophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1995 and spent two years at Oxford University as a British Marshall Scholar. He then earned his Ph.D in biomathematics from the UCLA in 2002 and continued for a M.D. degree, which he received in 2004, also from UCLA.

His research is on the forefront of high-performance statistical computing. He is a leading Bayesian statistician who focuses on inference of stochastic processes in biomedical research and in the clinical application of statistics. His training in both Medicine and Applied Probability help bridge the gap of understanding between statistical theory and clinical practicality.

He has been awarded several prestigious statistical awards such as the 2003 Savage Award, the 2006 Mitchell Prize, as well as a 2007 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in computational and molecular evolutionary biology and a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship to further computational statistics. Recently, he received the 2011 Raymond J. Carroll Young Investigator Award for a leading statistician within 10 years post-Ph.D. He is an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association.

Role: Dr. Suchard is leading the Modeling Core where he is devloping new statistical tools for large-scale data analysis. He is also overseeing all analyses of CViSB.

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Bryan Briney

Lead, Technology Core

Assistant Professor
Scripps Research

Bio: Bryan Briney, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research. He obtained his B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from the University of California, San Diego and his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 2012. He performed postdoctoral work in Dennis Burton's laboratory at Scripps Research.

His research is focused on genetic analysis of adaptive immune responses to infection and immunization. Previous work has studied the development of broadly neutralizing antibody responses to Zika, influenza and HIV as well as qualitative analyses of antibody responses to candidate HIV immunogens.

Role: Dr. Briney is leading the Technology Core where he is developing and using high-throughput technologies for CViSB data production. He is also assisting on Project 1, where he is investigating evolutionary pathways of T- and B-cell development in Ebola and Lassa patients.

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Galit Alter

Co-Lead, Technology Core

Professor
Ragon Institute & Harvard Medical School

Bio: Galit Alter, Ph.D. is Group Leader at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard and a Professor at Harvard Medical School. She received her PhD in experimental medicine from McGill University in 2004.

Over the past decade her research has focused on understanding the role of the innate immune response to chronic viral infections, including HIV and HCV, with a focus on defining the role of Natural Killer (NK) cells in antiviral control. Recently, these studies have shifted gears to begin to define the mechanism by which these innate immune effector cells may be harnessed through vaccination to gain more effective control over viral replication. To do this, her current research interests lie in defining the role of innate immune recruiting antibodies in providing protection from infection.

Role: Dr. Alter is assisting Dr. Briney on the Technology Core where she is developing high-throughput serological assays for investigating B-cell mediated immune responses following infection with Ebola virus and Lassa virus. She is also working with Drs. Andersen and Garry on the Projects.

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Douglas Lauffenburger

Co-Lead, Modeling Core

Ford Professor of Bioengineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Bio: Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Ph.D. is Ford Professor of Bioengineering and (founding) Head of the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He also with appointments in the Department of Biology and the Department of Chemical Engineering. He received his Ph.D. from Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1979.

His laboratory emphasizes integration of experimental and mathematical/computational analysis approaches, toward development and validation of predictive models for physiologically-relevant behavior in terms of underlying molecular and cellular network properties. His focus has been on fundamental aspects of cell dysregulation, complemented by translational efforts in identifying and testing new therapeutic ideas. Applications addressed have chiefly resided in cancer, inflammatory disease, and the immune system including especially for vaccines.

He has received numerous awards including an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1984, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989, and a Systems Biology Pioneer Award, SPIE in 2011. He is a Biomedical Engineering Society Fellow, and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Role: Dr. Lauffenburger is assisting Dr. Suchard on the Modeling Core where he is developing new machine learning methods for analyzing longitudinal multivariate datasets, including those produced by CViSB.

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John Schieffelin

Clinical Director

Assistant Professor
Tulane University

Bio: John S. Schieffelin, M.D. is an infectious disease doctor at Tulane University School of Medicine and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Tropical Medicine. He received his medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine in 2001 and continued his training in a combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency at Tulane University from 2001-2005. He then went on to complete a combined fellowship training program in Adult and Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and Tulane University from 2005-2009.

In 2009, he joined the Tulane University School of Medicine faculty in the Departments of Medicine & Pediatrics as an Assistant Professor or Clinical Medicine & Pediatrics. He served as an infectious disease doctor in Ebola treatment units in Sierra Leone during the epidemic in West Africa as part of an appointment from the WHO. His primary clinical interests include infections in viral hemorrhagic fever patients, transplant recipients, and tuberculosis.

Role: Dr. Schieffelin is the Clinical Director of CViSB and is overseeing all the clinical operations of the Center in Sierra Leone.

Donald Grant

Donald Grant

Chief Physician

Chief Physician
Kenema Government Hospital

Bio: Dr. Donald S. Grant is the Chief Physician of the Lassa ward at the Kenema Government Hospital, a position he took over in October 2010. Trained in Freetown, Sierra Leone Dr. Grant is currently also a lecturer in the Community Health Department of the College of Medicine at the University of Sierra Leone. His clinical and research interests revolve around infectious diseases.

He is actively involved in the community outreach projects that aim to create understanding among the public of how to prevent the transmission and infection of the virus that causes Lassa Fever, as well as tackle misconceptions among the community regarding receiving medical treatment at the hospital. Along with his work in the Lassa ward, Dr. Grant is one of four doctors at the hospital who provide services ranging from primary care to surgical procedures. His work involves balancing both the clinical and administrative sides of medicine.

Role: Dr. Grant is in charge of patient management and oversees all operations at our site in Kenema.

Simbirie Jalloh

Simbirie Jalloh

Program Manager

Program Manager
Kenema Government Hospital

Bio: Simbirie Jalloh joined the Lassa fever Program as Program Coordinator in 2008. Prior to taking on her current position she worked at the Ministry of Health in Freetown as the Secretary to the Director. She is responsible for handling the finances of the Program, as well as ensuring that the laboratory and Lassa ward are equipped with necessary materials. She manages the day-to-day activities of 35 staff members. In addition she liaises with Public Health Units across the country in order to coordinate the pick up of blood samples from suspected Lassa cases.

Ms. Jalloh is passionate about the research being conducted by the Consortium in Kenema, and hopes to see more partners join the fight against this killer disease. She also hopes that new funding opportunities will arise to help expand the research and infrastructure improvements currently being undertaken.

Role: Ms. Jalloh is managing all the operations at our site in Kenema.

Research

endemic_zoneWhat are the immunological, genetic, microbial and physiological attributes that play essential roles in determining outcomes from viral infections? The mission of the Center for Viral Systems Biology (CViSB; pronounced “SEE-VIZ-bee”) is to identify such factors and elucidate the molecular and immunological networks that determine outcomes of human disease. We hope that via this research we will be able to provide a deep system-level understanding of the virus and human determinants of clinical outcome to discover predictive markers of disease, and guide future therapies.

We will achieve these goals by applying several ‘omics’ technologies, continuous physiological sensing, and high-throughput experimental approaches to unique patient and survivor cohorts of Lassa fever and Ebola virus disease in West Africa. We will develop predictive models for identifying critical disease correlates and analyze large-scale data sets to pinpoint causal host-pathogen interactions. By elucidation the molecular networks that play critical roles in clinical outcomes, this research will allow us to identify new targets for medicines and vaccines, inform personalized treatment strategies, and provide novel computational algorithms applicable to a wide range of other human pathogens.

News

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Publication

Zika surveillance study in Cell

A new CViSB study investigating smoldering 'hidden' outbreaks of Zika in the Americas was published on the cover of Cell. In this paper we used travel surveillance and genomic epidemiology to answer a simple question - "in 2017, was the epidemic over?". The short answer, is no - read the rest of the study for the long answer. The Zika…
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News

CViSB Year in Review

The first year of CViSB has been a busy one. Receiving the NIH grant in February, 2018 prompted the onboarding of new scientists, research trips to West Africa, and a myriad of planning and coordination meetings. Samples from over 250 Lassa and Ebola patients were collected during trips to Kenema Government Hospital (KGH). The samples will be used to generate…
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Awards

Simbirie Jalloh wins 2019 African Achievers Award

Congratulations to our KGH Program Manager Ms. Simbirie Jalloh who recently received the 2019 African Achievers Award for excellence in humanitarian service. She has worked for the Lassa fever project at Kenema Government Hospital since 2008 and was honored for her contributions towards disease prevention and control in Sierra Leone. Ms. Jalloh received the award from Deputy Minister of Information,…

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