Grants awarded

Functional characterisation of the human virome through expression screens in human cells


Dr Richard Timms

University of Cambridge

United Kingdom

Viruses cannot grow outside a host cell and they hijack components from their host to carry out basic biological functions. Viruses are masters at manipulating and subverting the cellular pathways of their host to promote their survival and growth in the face of attack from the host’s immune system. This ability is especially remarkable considering that most viruses contain only enough genetic material to encode a handful of genes. Understanding how viral genes function can explain how harmful viruses can evade our immune systems to cause disease and help identify the most critical cellular components that detect viral infection.

The goal of my project is to develop a a single experiment that can identify all the viral genes that sabotage a particular process within the cell. I will focus on one key mechanism that cells use to detect infection: the sensing of genetic material derived from invading viruses. I aim to learn more about how viruses evade detection by the immune system by identifying additional viral genes that are able to suppress these critical sensing systems.

Ultimately, this work could highlight new avenues for antiviral drug design.