Viral infections constitute a major threat to human health. Among those with the greatest global relevance are HIV/AIDS, SARS-CoV-2, Hepatitis C virus (HCV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Zika virus.

Our researchers focus on the interactions between viruses and human cells to discover new principles of human biology. By focusing on the human pathways that are required for viral spread, they aim to develop pan-antiviral strategies to tackle current and future pandemics.

Equipped with two high-security biocontainment labs, Gladstone virologists rapidly responded to the COVID-19 developing innovative diagnostic, preventative, and treatment approaches. These include rapid testing devices using CRISPR technology and mobile phones, therapeutic interfering particles (TIPs) that can suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication, and virus-like particles that allow scientists to investigate new versions of the virus (such as the Delta and Omicron variants) as they arise.

The institute is also the organizational hub for HOPE, a multinational NIH-sponsored Collaboratory to find a cure for HIV. HOPE scientists aim to convert HIV from a pandemic pathogen into a harmless part of the human genome using advanced epigenetic and gene therapy interventions

Gladstone scientists are dedicated to mentoring the future generation of scientists interested in virology. Learn more about Gladstone’s training programs.

“Our goal is to discover the most impactful disease mechanisms and translate basic scientific discoveries into better treatments for patients.”

Melanie Ott, MD, PhD
Director, Gladstone Institute of Virology

Major Scientific Achievements

Led the Global iPrEX Study, Which Established Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as an Efficient Way to Prevent New HIV Infections

A Gladstone team demonstrated that two antiretroviral drugs, combined in a single tablet, can be used to prevent HIV infection in high-risk populations, providing proof of concept for pre-exposure prophylaxis. The approach has been adopted in San Francisco and worldwide.

Generated T Cell Lines Mimicking HIV Latency

HIV can hide out quietly in human immune cells for decades, and a true HIV cure will require eradicating or permanently silencing the latent viral reservoir. Gladstone scientists developed cell models of latency that are now widely used for HIV cure research.

Demonstrated That Amyloid Fibrils Found in Semen Enhance Infection by HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Viruses

Sexual transmission accounts for the vast majority of HIV infections. A Gladstone team discovered that components of semen actually attract the virus and help it infect CD4 T cells. This finding could pave the way for improved microbicides that target the fibrils to protect against sexual transmission.

Provided First Comprehensive Host-Virus Protein Interaction Maps for HIV, Hepatitis C Virus, SARS-CoV-2, and Other Viruses

By identifying the human proteins that are required for viral infection, scientists may be able to develop broad antiviral drugs that target the host proteins commonly used by many viruses. In addition, this approach could help them identify previously approved drugs targeting human proteins that may be repurposed for antiviral therapy.

Identified an Anti-Aging Protein That Could Rejuvenate Immune Cells

Gladstone researchers revealed that a protein called SIRT1, commonly known for being activated by a component of red wine, could also be targeted to rejuvenate cells in the immune system. After identifying the crucial role played by SIRT1 in the aging of immune cells, they identified two potential new treatment targets. First, new drugs could be developed to strengthen SIRT1, which could postpone the development of age-related diseases and help people with a weaker immune system fight infections or better respond to immune vaccination. Second, drugs could be used to obtain the opposite effect on SIRT1 to support an aggressive anti-tumor response or other immune therapeutic approaches.

Director’s Message