2016

Falling

It's been a very busy summer and early fall. As local transmission of Zika virus arrived in the United States, our research received an unprecedented (for me) amount of attention. The most exciting part of working on a public health emergency is contributing relevant data. We've worked hard to make this available even before peer reviewed manuscripts are published, but through the Zika Open Data Portal and publishing papers in the preprint Biorxiv archive. Two papers that are in Biorxiv now ahead of print are:


I also had opportunities to share my knowledge with several groups, including Congressional staff and Senators at a Preparing for and Protecting the Nation from Zika roundtable in July.

The start of the fall academic semester brought new adventures. We commemorated the 10th year teaching our undergraduate class on HIV: Sex, Science, and Society. This year, we are using lessons from HIV to inform discussions about the best way to confront Zika virus. I also participated in several meetings including:


In the next two weeks, I'm returning to Cape Town, South Africa and Brazil to discuss virus sequencing and Zika virus, respectively.

We have also been very busy working with our collaborators to apply for additional research support. We are lucky and grateful to have received funding to study mucosal transmission of Zika virus, the impact of pre-existing dengue virus immunity on Zika virus pathogenesis, and duration of Zika virus during pregnancy. Everyone on our team has been incredibly supportive and productive as we applied for this funding, as well as other grants that are still pending at NIH.

The weather in Madison is still quite sunny and warm but it won't be for much longer. Off to enjoy the outside before it gets dark!

Zika

A lot has happened in the past few months. Starting last November, we began working on a nonhuman primate model for studying Zika virus. We were fortunate to receive funding from NIH and pilot funding from the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center to support these studies. In turn, we made our results available to the community in real-time at http://zika.labkey.com/. A preprint of our first manuscript describing our efforts is available through Biorxiv and will hopefully be published in a peer-reviewed journal soon. There has been a lot of interest in both the data, our opinions about Zika virus research, and our decision to share it publicly. This has lead to an unusual amount of media attention, including:


Our work was even mentioned indirectly during a White House press conference!

In addition to Zika virus work, we've also been very busy studying macaque genetics and genomics. We are aggressively moving towards Pacific Biosciences long-read transcript sequencing for major histocompatibility complex and killer immunoglobulin receptor genotyping and allele discovery, work that will be funded by a newly awarded contract renewal from the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Meanwhile, Michael Graham has been prototyping a new "virtual reality" browser that uses an Oculus Rift to visualize variation in human and macaque genomes. Also, lots of congratulations to go around….



I have also been busy since the start of the year, talking about our research at the:


Now that the summer is here I hope we will have time to take a deep breath for the first time in several months!