Focus on the viral polymerase
In order to understand the complicated mechanism of virus replication, structural biology focuses on one key component: viral polymerase. In an infected cell, this enzyme ensures that new viral building blocks are created and duplicates the genetic information of the virus. The genome copies are then packaged with the viral building blocks into new "virions" that can leave the cell and infect a new host. Determining the polymerase structure helps scientists understand how a virus replicates. And this information in turn gives researchers important clues for developing drugs that can stop the infection.
The research group led by Dr Stephen Cusack, head of EMBL Grenoble, focuses on the polymerase of various human pathogenic viruses, particularly from the influenza virus group. Since influenza and Lassa viruses are related (both are segmented negative-strand RNA viruses), Dr. Stephen Cusack, Dr. Maria Rosenthal and Prof. Stephan Günther, head of department at BNITM, started working together several years ago. Prof. Kay Grünewald from LIV / UHH with laboratories at CSSB then joined as a further partner with strong expertise in electron microscopy.
About the BNITM
The Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) is Germany's largest institution for research, care and teaching in the field of tropical and emerging infectious diseases. Current research focuses on malaria, haemorrhagic fever viruses, immunology, epidemiology and clinic of tropical infections as well as the mechanisms of virus transmission by mosquitoes. For handling highly pathogenic viruses and infected insects, the institute has laboratories of the highest biological safety level (BSL4) and a safety insectarium (BSL3). The BNITM is a National Reference Centre for the detection of all tropical infectious agents and a WHO Collaborating Centre for arboviruses and haemorrhagic fever viruses. Together with the Ghanaian Ministry of Health and the University of Kumasi, it operates a modern research and training centre in the West African rainforest, which is also available to external working groups.
About the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
EMBL is Europe's flagship laboratory for life sciences. It was founded in 1974 as an intergovernmental organisation and is supported by 27 member states, 2 prospective member states and one associate member state.
EMBL conducts basic research in molecular biology and explores the history of life. The Institute provides services to the scientific community, trains future generations of scientists and seeks to integrate the life sciences across Europe.
EMBL is international, innovative and interdisciplinary. Its more than 1800 staff from over 80 countries work at six sites in Barcelona (Spain), Grenoble (France), Hamburg (Germany), Heidelberg (Germany), Hinxton (UK) and Rome (Italy). EMBL scientists work in independent groups, conducting research and providing services in all areas of molecular biology.
Research at EMBL drives the development of new technologies and methods in the life sciences. The Institute works to transfer this knowledge for the benefit of society.
About the CSSB
Infectious diseases are a global threat that cost many lives. The key to combating infectious diseases is a detailed understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms. The scientists at the Centre for Structural Systems Biology CSSB study the structure and function of pathogens and their interactions with the human body. The aim of the interdisciplinary centre is to contribute to the development of novel therapeutics and better treatment options in the fight against infectious diseases.
Three universities and seven research institutions work together in the CSSB to gain new fundamental insights in infection biology. To conduct their research, CSSB scientists use the world-class research infrastructure on the DESY campus in combination with in-house imaging techniques such as cryo-electron microscopy. In addition, CSSB's four research service facilities provide access to state-of-the-art technology and research services.