Wing-Pui Kong, Ph.D.

Chief, Virology Core
Vaccine Research Center

Major Areas of Research

  • Development of new vaccine candidates, and new vector systems for antigen delivery
  • Application of molecular biology technology to evaluation of vaccine candidates

Program Description

The mission of the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) is to translate basic scientific knowledge into vaccine products intended for clinical use. In order to carry out the development and analysis of new vaccine candidates, the VRC has established several laboratories, including the Virology Laboratory (VL). The goal of the various laboratories at the VRC is to develop novel vaccine candidates against HIV-1, influenza, and other emerging infectious diseases. The mission of the VL centers on understanding the cellular and molecular regulation of viral gene expression, entry into the cell, and correlates of immune protection, with the goal of developing safe and effective vaccines. The major areas of investigation involve HIV, influenza, and emerging viruses.

The Virology Core is a part of the Virology Laboratory and delivers services and expertise critical to the success of the research at the VRC. One approach toward achieving this goal is to design vaccine candidates including vectors and inserts that function as gene-based and protein-based immunogens to elicit cellular/humoral immune responses. The Virology Core provides investigators with DNA vectors, viral-based vectors including adenoviral vectors, lentiviral vectors, and alternative Ad vectors and recombinant proteins for basic research, vaccine applications, and crystallographic studies of vaccine candidates, preclinical studies, and clinical trials. The Virology Core also designs and examines the various vaccine delivery routes and vaccination platforms to enhance the immune responses.

A major focus of the Virology Core is the generation of new platforms for vaccine development. The VRC has increased the number of vaccine development platforms. In addition to HIV, there is substantial focus on influenza, chikungunya, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Ebola, and other infectious diseases.

For more information on research conducted by Dr. Wing-Pui Kong, visit the Virology Laboratory.


Dr. Kong received his Ph.D. in 1993 in virology at the University of Chicago, where he studied the molecular pathogenesis of picornaviruses, a class of viruses that contribute to the development of central nervous system disease. He made significant contributions to the elucidation of the mechanism by which these viruses induce disease. Dr. Kong then completed a postdoctoral fellowship and subsequently held a research investigator faculty appointment in Dr. Gary Nabel’s laboratory at the University of Michigan prior to beginning his employment at the VRC. At the University of Michigan, Dr. Kong’s work helped to better understand the role of NF-kB in selectively regulating gene expression in differentiation and development. He also collaborated with other members of the lab on research related to human herpes virus 8 (HHV8), which is associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Dr. Kong has a proven record of accomplishment in high-visibility and high-impact VRC vaccine development efforts. As chief of the Virology Core, Dr. Kong is responsible for advancing research on the development of new vaccine candidates and new vector systems for antigen delivery, overseeing all aspects of molecular biology related to viral vector construction and development, and evaluation of vaccine candidates for their effectiveness in inducing potent and broad immune responses in different animal models. An essential part of his position is that he communicates with multiple users, including scientists from the VL, Structural Biology Section, Humoral Immunology Core, Immunology Core, and Nonhuman Primate Immunogenicity Core.

Selected Publications

Kanekiyo M, Wei CJ, Yassine HM, McTamney PM, Boyington JC, Whittle JR, Rao SS, Kong WP, Wang L, Nabel GJ. Self-assembling influenza nanoparticle vaccines elicit broadly neutralizing H1N1 antibodiesNature. 2013 Jul 4;499(7456):102-6.

Wei CJ, Boyington JC, McTamney PM, Kong WP, Pearce MB, Xu L, Andersen H, Rao S, Tumpey TM, Yang ZY, Nabel GJ.Induction of broadly neutralizing H1N1 influenza antibodies by vaccinationScience. 2010 Aug 27;329(5995):1060-4.

Kong WP, Wu L, Wallstrom TC, Fischer W, Yang ZY, Ko SY, Letvin NL, Haynes BF, Hahn BH, Korber B, Nabel GJ. Expanded breadth of the T-cell response to mosaic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 envelope DNA vaccinationJ Virol. 2009 Mar;83(5):2201-15.

Kong WP, Hood C, Yang ZY, Wei CJ, Xu L, García-Sastre A, Tumpey TM, Nabel GJ. Protective immunity to lethal challenge of the 1918 pandemic influenza virus by vaccinationProc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 24;103(43):15987-91.

Kong WP, Xu L, Stadler K, Ulmer JB, Abrignani S, Rappuoli R, Nabel GJ. Modulation of the immune response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome spike glycoprotein by gene-based and inactivated virus immunizationJ Virol. 2005 Nov;79(22):13915-23.

Yang ZY*, Kong WP*, Huang Y, Roberts A, Murphy BR, Subbarao K, Nabel GJ. A DNA vaccine induces SARS coronavirus neutralization and protective immunity in miceNature. 2004 Apr 1;428(6982):561-4. * These authors contributed equally to this work.

Content last reviewed on March 11, 2015