Laboratory of Viral Diseases

Ted Pierson, Ph.D., Chief

Research programs in the Laboratory of Viral Diseases (LVD) explore fundamental aspects of cell and molecular biology, viral pathogenesis, and viral immunology within the context of a diverse group of medically important viruses that includes human/simian immunodeficiency viruses, poxviruses, herpesviruses, papillomaviruses, coronaviruses, influenza viruses, alphaviruses and flaviviruses. The goals of these research programs are to create knowledge that increases a basic biological understanding of these pathogens and their interactions with their hosts and to generate new strategies for preventing and treating viral diseases.

Viruses exploit and circumvent host cellular processes to promote productive infection, establish reservoirs of persistent/latent infection, and maximize transmission between hosts. LVD labs study viral utilization and modulation of host cell transcription and epigenetic machinery, creation of unique cellular structures to support viral replication and assembly, and antagonism of innate and adaptive antiviral immune responses. These basic studies have led to novel therapeutic approaches that target virus-host interactions and have provided important insight into cancers of both viral and non-viral origin.

LVD labs investigate viral pathogenesis and immunity using animal model systems, as well as human clinical trial resources and data. These investigations include the role of lymphoid and myeloid cells in anti-viral immunity, T and B cell recognition of viral proteins and peptides, T cell effector functions in vivo, and antibody interactions with viral proteins.  The influence of the microbiome on the acquisition of pathogenic viruses and subsequent immune responses and disease is also being explored.   

Contemporary vaccine development is a multidisciplinary effort that integrates structural biology of viral proteins and virions, animal models, and cutting-edge immunological approaches. LVD labs are involved in programs to develop vaccines against HIV-1, dengue virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, Zika virus, influenza A virus, and SARS-CoV-2. Studies to identify countermeasures for viruses that have yet to emerge as public health threats are also a part of NIAID efforts to prepare for future epidemics.

The LVD is a highly collaborative environment focused on both scientific discovery and the mentoring of young scientists. LVD seminar series provide opportunities for trainees to present and discuss their science with the entire LVD, to meet prominent virologists, and to gain professional insight from scientists with “beyond the bench” careers.

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Major Areas of Research

  • Viral entry into cells
  • Regulation of viral and host gene expression
  • Mechanisms of viral DNA replication
  • Biogenesis of viral proteins and particles
  • Actions of viral growth factors and immune defense molecules
  • Determinants of viral virulence and pathogenicity
  • Generation of MHC class I peptides
  • Specificity and function of antiviral antibodies
  • Development of recombinant expression vectors, candidate vaccines, and antiviral agents
  • Wide range of DNA and RNA viruses, including human/simian immunodeficiency viruses, poxviruses, herpesviruses, papillomaviruses, coronaviruses, influenza viruses, alphaviruses and flaviviruses
  • Wide range of expertise, including molecular biology, cell biology, cellular immunology, humoral immunology, carcinogenesis, recombinant viruses, vaccines, viral pathogenesis, and the microbiome


The Laboratory of Viral Diseases includes the following principal investigators, staff scientists, and/or staff clinicians:

Sections and Units

The Laboratory of Viral Diseases includes the following sections and units:

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