2017 Basic Science Award Recipient: Dr. Mavis Agbandje-McKenna
As Director of the Center for Structural Biology (CSB) and Professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Dr. Agbandje-McKenna leads the university’s efforts in research that reveals relationships between biologic structure and function. Under her leadership, the CSB facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration among investigators from across campus to investigate important structure-function questions and provides students training in structural biology.
Dr. Agbandje-McKenna’s research is centered on defining structural elements of viruses that give rise to pathogenicity and immunogenicity. She studies ssDNA viruses in the Parvoviridae family, which is composed of pathogenic viruses that cause disease in animals and humans and nonpathogenic viruses (e.g., Adeno-Associated Virus) that are used as gene therapy vectors. With over 170 publications, researchers from around the world go to Dr. Agbandje-McKenna for insight into parvovirus structure and function.
Her current research is funded by two NIH R01s, an R21 and two industry research contracts. She also supports research in other laboratories by serving as a co-investigator on four additional grants. These research projects define structural features of viral capsids that are important for entry into different cell types, that affect capsid dynamics needed to release viral genomes into cells, and that give rise to antigenicity. This work is important for defining both host and cell tropism of viruses, and for determining how viruses interact with the immune system. Ultimately, Dr. Agbandje-McKenna’s research will lead to the development of new therapeutic treatments for viral diseases and improvements in the efficacy of gene therapy vectors.