Molecular Virology & Microbiology

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Curtailing the spread of infectious disease traditionally has been accomplished through use of vaccines, antibiotics, antiviral drugs, and public health measures. But in the face of challenges like drug-resistant microbes and the emergence of HIV, future answers hinge on progressive research in molecular virology and microbiology.

The University of Pittsburgh has a long and storied history in microbiology. The school was instrumental in the development of the first polio vaccine, the discovery of bacterial pili, and the identification of Legionella pneumophila as the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease. Today, Molecular Virology and Microbiology faculty address a diverse array of contemporary issues relating to the molecular mechanisms governing pathogen-host interactions.


Biomedical research at the school focuses on molecular virology and on the molecular basis for infectious disease. Current investigations include the study of gene expression, mechanisms of persistence and pathogenesis, the host immune response, molecular-based strategies to combat infectious disease, and the use of viruses as vectors for human gene therapy. As a result, students in the program gain a comprehensive interdisciplinary background in modern molecular virology and microbiology with a strong underpinning in molecular biology, immunology, and biochemistry.

Faculty participating in the Molecular Virology and Microbiology program have primary appointments in the departments of Medicine; Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry; Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences; Ophthalmology; and Pathology. Because of the diversity of the faculty within this program, facilities are available that range from the basic (oligonucleotide and peptide synthesis; DNA and protein sequencing), to the applied (biosafety level III and transgenic animal facilities), to clinics (such as those available through Pathology; Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences; and the Allegheny County Heath Department's Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic).

The program sponsors and promotes research seminars and annual symposia that represent research at the forefront of modern science. This program also acts as a network to coordinate and promote collaborative basic and clinical advancement of microbiology and virology, enabling transfer of new ideas and technologies among faculty laboratories to the clinical arena.

Molecular Basis of Infectious Diseases


Zandrea Ambrose
Assistant Professor
HIV-1 drug resistance and pre-exposure prophylaxis; HIV-1 persistence/latency; Early events in the HIV-1 infection lifecycle
Cristian Apetrei
Associate Professor
SIV diversity; SIV pathogenesis in natural hosts (i.e., African green monkeys) or upon cross-species transmission (macaques); Animal models for a cure; Animal models for protection against the acquisition of HIV infection (i.e., exposed/uninfected individuals)
Simon M. Barratt-Boyes
Research Instructor
Development of a preventative vaccine and immunotherapy against HIV infection using SIV as a model
James E Bina
Associate Professor
Our research is centered on defining the molecular mechanisms used by bacteria to resist antibiotics and cause disease in humans. Our work currently focuses on two important gram negative human pathogens: Vibrio cholerae and Francisella tularensis.
Jennifer Bomberger
Assistant Professor
host-pathogen interactions; respiratory infections; viral-bacterial co-infections; epithelial cell biology; protein trafficking and biochemistry; Cystic Fibrosis; COPD
Jon B. Boyle
Host-pathogen interactions; evolution; host range expansion; gene duplication and expansion
Yuan Chang
Distinguished Professor
Cancer Virology
Kelly S. Cole
Associate Professor
immunity and transmission of emerging infectious diseases, including influenza; development of animal models
Vaughn Cooper
Carolyn B. Coyne
research in my lab combines important aspects of virology, immunology, and cell biology to dissect various aspects of host-virus interactions, with a particular focus on polarized cell types
Neal A. DeLuca
Regulation of Viral Gene Expression; Mechanisms of Viral Persistence.
Terence Dermody
Joanne L. Flynn
Tuberculosis: pathogenesis, immunology, vaccines, drugs
Joseph C. Glorioso
Pain neurobiology, neural tumor biology, Huntington disease pathobiology, stem cell biology and induced pluripotentcy
Phalguni Gupta
Mechanism of HIV transmission; HIV virology and retrovirology
Graham F. Hatfull
Mycobacteria; bacteriophages; tuberculosis; genomics
Robert L. Hendricks
Viral immunology; role of the immune system in HSV-latency and virus-induced immunopathy
Roger W. Hendrix
Mechanisms of assembly and principles of structure in bacterial viruses
Sharon L. Hillier
Altered vaginal ecology as a risk factor for sexually transmitted disease, HIV infection, and pregnancy complications
Fred L Homa
Associate Professor
understanding the mechanism of herpesvirus capsid assembly and DNA packaging
Frank J. Jenkins
Associate Professor
Molecular biology and sero-epidemiology of human herpesvirus 8
Saleem A. Khan
Role of microRNAs in human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers and in aging; DNA helicases
Paul R. Kinchington
HSV and VZV neurotropism, Latency and Pathogenesis; Viral protein kinases and their targets
William Brown Klimstra
Associate Professor
lab goal is to define the host and viral factors that determine the success or failure of innate immune response to infection with anthropod-borne viruses
Seema Lakdawala
Jeffrey G. Lawrence
Molecular evolution of bacterial genomes; evolution of metabolic pathways
Nara Lee
Philana L Lin
Assistant Professor
Bruce A. McClane
Bacterial toxins, bacterial pathogenesis, regulation of virulence, toxin plasmids
John W. Mellors
HIV/AIDS, new antiretrovirals, HIV drug resistance, antiretroviral therapy, HIV reservoirs and their elimination
Patrick S. Moore
Distinguished Professor
Tumor virology, cap-dependent translation, virus targeting of human tumor suppressor pathways
Satoshi Nakajima
Assistant Professor
Ivona Vasile Pandrea
Associate Professor
SIV pathogenesis in natural hosts (i.e., African green monkeys); Animal models for a cure; Animal modeling of comorbidities associated with HIV/SIV infection
Michael A Parniak
HIV reverse transcriptase structure-function; HIV ribonuclease H; drug discovery and development; molecular mechanisms of HIV drug resistance; development of microbicides to prevent sexual transmission of HIV.
James M. Pipas
Molecular biology of DNA tumor viruses; molecular mechanisms tumorigenicity
Anthony Richardson
Charles R. Rinaldo
immunology of HIV-1 infections and AIDS; AIDS cohort studies
Yoel Sadovsky
MicroRNAs, viral replication, exosomes trafficking and pregnancy
Saumendra Narayan Sarkar
Assistant Professor
Innate Immunity; Virus; Interferon; Signaling; Cancer
Martin C. Schmidt
Associate Professor
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a central regulator of cellular metabolism and an important drug target for treatment of type 2 diabetes. We use yeast as a model system to study glucose signaling and the regulation of AMPK
Kathy Ho Yen Shair
Assistant Professor
Epstein-Barr virus associated cancers and pathogenesis
Robert Michael Queen Shanks
Associate Professor
Bacterial eye infections, biofilms, transcription factors, host-pathogen interactions, natural products
Masahiro Shuda
Research Assistant Professor
Nicolas Paul Sluis-Cremer
Associate Professor
HIV drug resistance; HIV drug discovery; HIV latent
Thomas E. Smithgall
Gary Thomas
Visiting Professor
Abbe N. Vallejo
Associate Professor
Cellular senescence and immunobiology of aging; Autoimmunity, chronic inflammation and tissue remodeling; Phylogeny and regulation of multigene families.
Ora A. Weisz
Regulation of apical membrane traffic
John Williams
Respiratory viruses; human metapneumovirus; lung immunology; CD8+ T cell impairment; vaccines