Faculty, BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado BoulderView Slides
The 2012 MERS, 2013 Ebola, and 2015 Zika epidemics give testament to the increasing pace at which viruses are emerging from nature. The vast majority of new human viral diseases, including these three, emerge when humans come into contact with animal reservoirs. It has never been more important to rapidly characterize virus biology so that drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines can be quickly developed. The Sawyer Lab is establishing techniques that fit into the “rapid response” pipeline on which we must now rely in the face of endless new viral emergence events. We are focusing in three key areas. First, we are applying techniques to discern which viruses in nature pose the most threat to humans. Second, we are applying novel computational techniques, including machine learning, to quickly understand the biology of new viruses once they start to make people sick. Finally, we are focusing on principles that can reveal which animal models will lead us most quickly to drugs and vaccines that will protect us against these viruses.