Of all health dangers, the impact of infectious diseases easily dwarfs any other natural or man-made catastrophes. The most deadly and debilitating diseases known to humankind are due to virus infections, including 10 to 15 percent of all cancers. Besides their devastating impact on public and global health, viruses such as influenza, HIV, hepatitis C and human papillomavirus also lead to billions of dollars in direct economic and indirect societal costs each year. Viruses are part of all earth’s ecosystems and infect all kinds of organisms, from plants and insects to fish and mammals, and even single cell life forms like bacteria. Unlike other microbes and higher life forms, viruses are entirely dependent on the molecular machinery of their infected hosts. The Morgridge Institute for Research Virology Team uses multiple approaches to accelerate understanding of virus replication and interactions between viruses and host cells, a critical foundation to effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat virus-associated disease, including cancer.
Paul Ahlquist, Director
The Virology Research Team at the Morgridge Institute is directed by National Academy of Sciences member Paul Ahlquist. In his capacity as a UW-Madison professor, Paul holds faculty positions in the University’s Department of Oncology in the School of Medicine and Public Health, the Institute for Molecular Virology under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, and the Department of Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He is also the Associate Director for Basic Sciences at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Paul’s research group studies the molecular mechanisms of viral replication, virus-host interactions and viral pathogenesis, including virus-induced cancers.
“We will build on important strengths of the UW-Madison campus to further the understanding and control of viruses that cause acute, chronic and latent infections that lead to devastating diseases such as cancer, hepatitis, AIDS and influenza.”
Anthony Gitter, Investigator
Anthony Gitter is a Morgridge Institute for Research Investigator and UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics. Tony studies the interconnected relationships in biological networks – how multiple genes or molecular pathways work together in living systems, particularly in biological processes such as disease progression.
“The answer for me is the same as it is for the wet lab scientists working on disease: We want to find the next potential targets and learn something new about the system. We are contributing to the knowledge of what’s really happening with those diseases that will inform new therapies.”
Timothy Grant, Investigator
Timothy Grant is a Morgridge Institute Investigator and an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Tim’s expertise is in developing and applying new methods for improved imaging and image analysis by cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). Cryo-EM is an increasingly powerful approach that is revolutionizing determining the structures of biological macromolecules (proteins, nucleic acids, etc.) and complexes at near-atomic to atomic resolution.
“One of the greatest strengths of cryo-EM is the ability to image macromolecules in many different states. We are using this ability to reveal the mechanisms by which such macromolecules function as molecular machines transitioning through distinct conformations.”