Leor Weinberger’s lab studies fundamental processes of viral biology to develop innovative first-in-class therapies against HIV. The lab discovered a viral program that allows HIV to grow in some cells and remain dormant in others, and a new class of molecules that manipulate this program in infected individuals. The group developed and pioneered the concept of Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs), single-administration, resistance-proof therapeutics that could treat HIV in resource-limited settings, such as sub-Saharan Africa and in injection drug users. The group also develops novel therapies for SAR-CoV-2, herpes simplex, and cytomegalovirus, the leading cause of birth defects and transplant failures.
Areas of Expertise
Weinberger and his team are known for discovering HIV’s latency “circuit”. HIV latency is a viral dormant state and the chief barrier to an HIV cure. Weinberger’s lab characterized the molecular mechanisms regulating HIV stochastic fluctuations (“noise”) and overturned dogma to show that HIV evolved circuitry to control latency by manipulating noise. These studies led to the lab’s discovery of a new class of molecules (noise enhancers), and of gene circuits in herpesviruses that are being exploited as a new class of antiviral targets.
The lab couples computational and experimental approaches, including quantitative, single-cell and single-molecule microscopy and mathematical modeling. An exciting illustration is the team’s recent effort to engineer resistance-proof, single-administration therapies for HIV. These therapies would benefit the highest-risk populations who most need therapy, and are aimed specifically at resource-poor settings, such as sub-Saharan Africa or at people who inject drugs.
Senior Investigator, Gladstone Institutes
Director, Center for Cell Circuitry, Gladstone Institutes
William and Ute Bowes Distinguished Professor
Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Biophysics, UC San Francisco
Leor S. Weinberger, PhD, is the director of the Center for Cell Circuitry and a senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes. He is also the William and Ute Bowes Distinguished Professor, as well as a professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics, at UC San Francisco.
Weinberger earned a BS in biology and physics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a PhD in biophysics from UC Berkeley, where he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellow. He received postdoctoral training at Princeton University as a Lewis Thomas Fellow, working with Thomas Shenk and David Botstein. Before joining Gladstone, Weinberger was an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego.
Weinberger has been named an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow and won several awards, including the W.M. Keck Foundation Research Excellence Award, the California HIV/AIDS Young Investigator Innovative Development Award, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Grand Challenges Award. He is also the only individual ever to win the NIH Director’s Pioneer, Avant-Garde, and New Innovator awards. Weinberger is a member of numerous scientific societies and serves on the Innovation Review Panel for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
How Did You Get Your Start in Science?
“I had several extremely dedicated undergraduate mentors who encouraged me to combine my math and physics interests with biology and gave me a place in their labs.”
Honors and Awards
2019 Keynote Speaker, Computational and Genomic Biology Retreat, UC Berkeley
2018 The Windsor Cutting Memorial Lectureship, Stanford University
2017 The Svedberg Lecture, Uppsala University and Karolinska Institut, Sweden
2017 Keynote Speaker, Whitehead Fellows Seminar Forum, Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, MA
2016 Butler Seminar, Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University
2016 J.W. Kieckhefer Distinguished Speaker, MIT
2016 Blavatnik Scholar
2015 Elected Fellow, American Institute of Medical and Biomedical Engineers
2013 Pioneer Award, National Institutes of Health
2011 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow
2009 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award
2009 W.M. Keck Foundation Research Excellence Award
2009 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Explorations Award
2009 California HIV/AIDS Young Investigator Innovative Development Award
2008 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
2008 NIH K25 Career Development Award
2006 External Thesis Reviewer, Department of Applied Maths, Witz University, South Africa
2006 Princeton University Early Promotion (Research Associate to Research Staff)
2006 Best Postdoctoral Research Award, Department of Biology, Princeton University
2006 Lewis Thomas Fellowship, Princeton University
2003 Berkeley Microscopy Award, UC Berkeley
1999 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship
1999 Chancellor’s Fellowship, UC Berkeley
1999 Eugene Cota Robles Fellowship, UC Berkeley
1998 DOE (URS) Research Scholarship, Los Alamos National Lab
1998 Kupcinet International Science Research Scholarship, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
1997 HHMI Undergraduate Research Fellowship, 2nd award
1997 NSF (REU) Research Scholarship, UC San Diego
1996 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Scholar, University of Maryland
1996 Maryland Distinguished Scholar
1996 University Honors Research Grant, University of Maryland
1996 John Prost Scholarly Writing Award, University of Maryland, Honors Program
1993 FAES Fellow, National Institutes of Health