Plenary and Keynote Speakers


priscilla Li-ning Yang

Priscilla Li-ning Yang - Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, Bio-X Affiliated Faculty

Dr. Priscilla Yang earned her PhD in Bio-organic Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Following postdoctoral training in viral immunology at Scripps Research, she started her independent career at Harvard Medical School, where her laboratory combined chemical and pharmacological approaches to address fundamental and translational problems in virology. She is currently Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Stanford University School of Medicine where she focuses on leading and mentoring a multidisciplinary group of scientists focused on discovery and validation of new antiviral targets; identifying new strategies to achieve broad-spectrum activity and to avoid antiviral resistance; and investigating the function of lipid membranes in RNA virus replication. She is a strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in science.

Dr. Yang's research group focuses on understanding the mechanisms responsible for viral replication and development of new strategies to combat viral pathogens. They combine chemical biology, medicinal chemistry, and molecular virology approaches to tackle challenges in both basic and translational research.

Over the past decade, the lab's efforts have centered on two significant problems: first, addressing the challenges that limit our current arsenal of antivirals and second, understanding the specificity and function of host lipids in RNA virus replication. The Yang lab is keenly interested in discovery of new antiviral targets and strategies and leveraging these discoveries to develop first-in-class small molecule antivirals. They also have a strong interest in developing or adapting tools from chemistry, chemical engineering, and biophysics to probe new areas of virology.

dennis dente profile

Dennis A. Benete, DVM, PhD, Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch

The goal of Dr. Bente's research is to better understand the transmission and pathogenesis of tick‐borne hemorrhagic fever viruses and to develop countermeasures to combat the disease. The intersection between arbovirology and hemorrhagic fever research requires an interdisciplinary approach, involving virology (classical techniques as well as molecular techniques such as reverse genetics), immunology (human and animal models), and tick physiology. Dr. Bente's is the first laboratory in the world to establish a tick‐host transmission model in a BSL-4 setting. A number of collaborations have been established with other virologists at UTMB, including Drs. Alan Barrett, Thomas Ksiazek, David Beasley, Alexander Freiberg and Thomas Geisbert, that include studies on Crimean‐Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, Kyasanur forest disease virus, Alkhurma hemorrhagic fever virus, and West‐Nile virus. 

Dr. Bente's current interests are pathogenesis and transmission of tick‐borne hemorrhagic fever viruses, BSL4, hemorrhagic fevers, animal models, tick vector biology, host‐vector‐virus interaction.


Barbara Baker, Adjunct Professor, UC Berkeley 

The Baker Lab seeks understanding of the molecular, genetic and biochemical bases of host-microbe interactions, and investigates mechanisms of pathogen-induced host disease and disease resistance.
Our goal is to understand the biochemical and molecular bases of plant resistance to pathogen diseases. We especially are interested in understanding the mechanism of plant-pathogen recognition and signal transduction leading to the induction of disease resistance responses. Our experimental system consists of the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) resistance gene, N, encoding a putative cytoplasmic receptor, disease-resistant plant hosts harboring N, and the classical plant pathogen, TMV.

Plant disease caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi are controlled naturally by plant host resistance (R) genes and avirulence (avr) genes of the pathogen. This has been termed gene-for-gene resistance. A simple model explains these gene-for-gene interactions: Avirulence gene products generate signals (ligands) and resistance genes encode cognate receptors.


Ian Ehrenreich, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California, Dornsife

Our goal is to understand how the genome gives rise to all of the attributes of organisms. This topic is central to the molecular basis of life itself and has implications for medicine, agriculture, biomanufacturing, evolution, and other areas. Work in our lab involves two main approaches: complex trait genetics and synthetic genomics. We use large budding yeast crosses and chromosomally-encoded DNA barcodes to comprehensively dissect the genetic basis of complex traits in a key eukaryotic model organism. Presently, we are focused on two traits: response to new genetic perturbations and ability to persist inside mammalian hosts. We build whole chromosomes, which allows us to examine how multifactorial changes to chromosomes impact viability, growth, and other phenotypes. We have a diversity of synthetic genomic projects in the lab, some focused on making chassis organisms for research and biotechnology, others focused on understanding the minimum genetic requirements for eukaryotic life, and others focused on understanding the genetic bases of phenotypes within and across species and genera.


Scott Pegan, Professor of the Biomedical Sciences, UC Riverside

Regulation of the Human Innate Immune System and development of Antiviral Therapeutics

As demonstrated by COVID-19, viral outbreaks pose a persistent threat to the public. However, the development of antiviral therapeutics for coronaviruses as well as other emerging and neglected disease has been underwhelming over the past decades. Dr. Pegan’s approach involves gaining a greater understanding of the mammalian innate immune response and how it is modulated by often-fatal human pathogens such as certain nairoviruses and coronaviruses. His laboratory utilizes this knowledge to develop vaccine and small molecule planforms for antiviral therapy development.

One of his on-going interests is to investigate the anti-viral type I response through the structural and kinetic study of proteases and ligases involved in the immune response signaling pathway. This includes vaccine and small molecule development on SARS-CoV-2 and related coronaviruses as well as Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever virus (CCHFV). Due CCHFV infection resulting in often fatal outcomes and no viable therapeutics available, CCHFV is at the top of the WHO blueprint for new vaccine development. Following a multidisciplinary research model, Dr. Pegan partners with the CDC, DoD, and other industry partners in carrying out these research interests. His research in this area is supported by the NIH, DoD, and industry.


Sonali Chaturvedi, Assistant Professor in Virology, UC Riverside

The Chaturvedi lab focuses on systems and synthetic virology, with a primary objective of elucidating the replication dynamics of both RNA and DNA viruses. Our research is geared towards designing the next-generation therapeutic strategies, achieved through an in-depth characterization of the complex feedback circuits that determine cellular and viral fates. A key area of interest also includes investigating the mechanisms that dictate latency in DNA viruses, such as Cytomegalovirus and Herpes Simplex Virus-1, among others. Additionally, a significant aspect of our work involves exploring the regulatory roles of non-coding RNAs in gene expression and pathogenesis.

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