University or Institution

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Area of Research:

Our group employs a mouse model of pathogenic SARS-CoV-2 infection to study viral pathogenesis and the host response to infection. We aim to use multiple clinical and postmortem approaches and analyses to gain a comprehensive understanding of how potential COVID-19 therapies affect ARDS development.

Primary Mentor:

Victoria K. Baxter, DVM, PhD, DACLAM

Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Biocontainment Veterinarian, Division of Comparative Medicine

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

[email protected]

 

Mentoring Team:

Robert Hagan, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine Division of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine

Mark Heise, PhD

Professor, Departments of Genetics and Microbiology & Immunology

Stephanie Montgomery, DVM, PhD, DACVP

Associate Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Description of Potential Research Projects:

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic with millions of deaths globally. Approximately 10% of SARS-CoV-2 infections result in COVID-19 pneumonia that progresses to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and a growing body of evidence suggests that the host inflammatory response plays a major role in driving severe disease in some patients. Anti-inflammatory therapies, such as corticosteroids and Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, have shown some promise in treating severe COVID-19, but suppression of host immune responses also risks enhancing viral replication and exacerbating disease. Therefore, successful deployment of anti-inflammatory drugs requires an understanding of how these inhibitors affect not only lung function and pathology, but also SARS-CoV-2 replication and virus-induced immunity. Our group employs a mouse model of pathogenic SARS-CoV-2 infection to study viral pathogenesis and the host response to infection. We aim to use multiple clinical and postmortem approaches and analyses to gain a comprehensive understanding of how potential COVID-19 therapies affect ARDS development. Information gained from this project will provide insight to how anti-inflammatory therapies play both a protective and pathological role in SARS-CoV-2 infection, informing the use of potential COVID-19 therapies in human patients. This project will benefit from the expertise of a veterinarian with an interest in respiratory disease and pathology or infectious disease pathogenesis and will be tailored so that knowledge and experiences gained in areas such as pulmonary disease evaluation and immune function and drug disposition and tolerance can be applied to post-fellowship endeavors based on the fellow’s specific career goals.

 

Additional Training Opportunities:

As part of the proposed project, the fellow will receive training in working with research mice, techniques related to safe virus handling and laboratory analysis, and performing experiments in a BSL3 laboratory. The fellow and Dr. Baxter will meet weekly, where they will discuss experimental design and data analysis and interpretation. The fellow will also take part in Dr. Baxter’s weekly lab meeting, where they will give informal research presentations and present at journal club a few times a year. They will also present their work at least once at each of the university-wide Immunology Research in Progress and Virology in Progress (VIP) weekly meetings, as well as the weekly Pathobiology and Translational Science Seminar held by theDepartment of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. The fellow will additionally take part inResponsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training provided by the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute and additional VIP-sponsored RCR trainings offered to trainees in virology labs at UNC. They also will be encouraged to attend and present at local, national, and/or international virology, immunology, and/or pathology meetings, contribute to manuscripts and reviews that will be submitted to respected peer-reviewed journals, and participate in grant application preparations by members of the mentoring team. Finally, depending on their interest, the fellow will have the opportunity to interact and engage in activities with the team of 10 faculty veterinarians and 6 veterinary residents in the Division of Comparative Medicine at UNC.

Contact Information for Interested Potential Trainees:

Victoria K. Baxter, DVM, PhD, DACLAM

Biocontainment Veterinarian, Division of Comparative Medicine University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

[email protected]