Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Lijun Rong, professor of microbiology and immunology, is working on identifying small drug molecules that can prevent some of the most dangerous viruses — including Ebola, Marburg and MERS — from infecting cells. He uses a high-throughput screening facility to screen and identify drugs and agents for their virus-blocking potential. By removing proteins on the viral surface involved in recognizing, binding to and entering host cells, and affixing them to much less dangerous viruses, Rong can safely test agents that interfere cell infection.
Rong and colleagues have identified a few lead molecules that show promise against Ebola. Mice given one of these compounds had an 80% survival rate when exposed to the Ebola virus in the lab, compared with 0% for the mice that didn’t get the compound.
He is also searching for small molecules to prevent infection with H7N9, a strain of the avian influenza virus that caused an outbreak in China in March 2013.