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Deciphering viral infections: Mechanisms of the cell-intrinsic innate immune response

This webinar is brought to you by the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office

Deciphering viral infections: Mechanisms of the cell-intrinsic innate immune response

16 September 2020

12:00 p.m. ET

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Building a detailed understanding of viral infection mechanisms and host immune response is critical to developing new treatments for infectious disease. The ability of innate immune cells to detect pathogens via sensing of foreign nucleic acids is a key first step in triggering immune signaling pathways for host defense. Research has revealed how specific DNA and RNA sensors are coupled to a cascade of immune responses, including the upregulation of transcriptional programs and the activation and release of mature cytokines. Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), such as RIG-I and MDA5, detect viral RNAs during infection and activate the type I interferon signaling pathway. The mechanisms and signaling proteins that lie downstream of such nucleic acid sensors are crucial for host immune defense against many viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. However, these pathways are also vital for the immune system to distinguish self from nonself, so the regulation of these cascades and the inflammasome is a vital area of research in the development of treatments for autoimmune diseases and cancer. In this webinar, our speakers will discuss immune mechanisms of DNA and RNA sensing and the role these pathways play in host viral response as well as potential applications for these discoveries in therapy development.

During the webinar, viewers will:

  • Learn how infection with viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, activates the innate immune response
  • Discover how pathogens can evade the innate immune response
  • Gain insight into mechanisms of viral response by the innate immune system
  • Have the opportunity to ask questions during the live broadcast.

This webinar will last for approximately 60 minutes.

You can also view part 1 and part 2 of this series.

Speaker bios

Kate Fitzgerald, Ph.D.

UMass Medical School
Worcester, MA

Dr. Fitzgerald is professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), Worcester, where she has worked since 2001. She is vice chair of the Department of Medicine, overseeing research for her own group and the department as a whole. She is also director of the Program in Innate Immunity and is currently serving as president of the International Cytokine & Interferon Society. She completed all of her education in Ireland, receiving her B.Sc. in biochemistry from University College Cork and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin. After pursing a postdoctoral fellowship at Trinity, she joined UMMS. Dr. Fitzgerald directs an internationally recognized laboratory focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling the inflammatory response in both health and disease. Her group is interested in determining how the immune system distinguishes friend from foe in order to protect the host from infection and avoid damaging inflammatory responses that lead to a wide range of inflammatory diseases. Her long-term goal is to determine how inappropriate activation of the immune system underlies the pathogenesis of infectious, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases in humans. She has received numerous awards, including the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Scholarship at UMMS and the Saint Patrick’s Day Science Medal from the Irish government and Science Foundation Ireland. She serves as a scientific advisor for several biotech companies in the Boston area.

Sun Hur, Ph.D.

Boston Children's Hospital
Boston, MA

Dr. Hur received her B.S. in physics from Ewha Womans University in Korea in 2001 and her Ph.D. in physical chemistry under Thomas C. Bruice at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2003. She did her postdoctoral training in X-ray crystallography with Robert M. Stroud at the University of California, San Francisco. She joined Harvard Medical School in 2008 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, with a joint appointment at Boston Children’s Hospital. She was promoted to professor in 2019 and to Oscar M. Schloss Professor of Pediatrics in 2020. Dr. Hur received the 2009 Massachusetts Life Sciences Center New Investigator Award, the 2010 Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences Award, the 2015 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science, the 2015 Burroughs Wellcome Infectious Disease Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease (PATH) Award, and the 2019 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. She was recently selected as a finalist for the 2020 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Her research focuses on structural and biochemical mechanisms of foreign nucleic acid sensors in the vertebrate innate immune system and transcription factors involved in development of the vertebrate adaptive immune system. Her approach ranges from structural characterization of important molecular complexes and biochemical reconstitution of immune signaling pathways to cellular imaging and genetic screens to identify new molecular components in these pathways.

Sean Sanders, Ph.D.

Washington, DC

Dr. Sanders did his undergraduate training at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge, UK, supported by the Wellcome Trust. Following postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown University, Dr. Sanders joined TranXenoGen, a startup biotechnology company in Massachusetts working on avian transgenics. Pursuing his parallel passion for writing and editing, Dr. Sanders joined BioTechniques as an editor, before joining Science/AAAS in 2006. Currently, Dr. Sanders is the Director and Senior Editor for Custom Publishing for the journal Science and Program Director for Outreach.

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