The biology of virus regulation and non-coding RNAs

The biology of virus regulation and non-coding RNAs. Viruses have shaped our history and remain a significant burden on global health. Smallpox alone killed an estimated 500 million individuals between the fourteenth and twentieth century, altering dynasties and influencing the European conquest of the Americas.  Yellow fever virus helped propagate the slave trade; Polio and Measles viruses influenced human migration patterns; and Human Immunodeficiency Virus is presently shaping the demographics of entire countries. Furthermore, we have observed four major influenza virus pandemics in the last century and we are continuously burdened with seasonal epidemics – both accounting for significant morbidity and mortality. In addition, emerging viruses such as Zika, SARS, MERS and Ebola viruses continue to surface as the human population expands, altering ecosystems and occupying previously uncharted microbe-laden areas.  The major challenge of combatting the global burden of emerging viruses is that unforeseen mutations allow changes in host tropism leading to worldwide distribution and virulence. Complicating this dynamic even further, these mutations have been found to occur at the level of both coding (protein) and non coding (RNA) genomic material. Given this, we have teamed up with the Populations Virales et Pathogenese (PVP) unit in the hopes that the synergy between these groups may make new strides in our understanding of virus evolution. In brief, we are working to address the evolutionary fitness landscape of viruses at both the level of coding and non coding genetics. Our overall goal of this effort is to combine the science of natural virus evolution as it relates to pathogenesis with the capacity to emulate comparable dynamics of selection in the lab.