Herpesviruses are complex infectious agents with the unusual ability to reside in their hosts for life. This property is intimately associated with their remarkably success: all animals, from oysters to elephants, provide shelter to a least one type of herpesvirus. Unlike recently emerged pathogens, herpesviruses have an ancient origin. They have co-evolved with us, and have adapted to such an extent that we are generally not aware of their presence. And yet, in some instances their potent infectivity can produce severe disease. This talk will examine the tactics that one of these viruses, herpes simplex virus, uses to invade our nervous system, and how a vaccine is nearly at hand.
Greg Smith is Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. In the 1970’s he spent a good chunk of his childhood learning to code games on computers, but while attending college at the University of California Santa Barbara became entranced by the genetic code found in nature. He is particularly intrigued by viruses and the elegant clockwork mechanisms built into these nanomachines. Greg’s research is focused at the interface of human-pathogen interactions, and along the way he has produced tools to genetically reprogram viruses that are being used to develop vaccines and cancer treatments at several biotech companies and in his own lab. He is a fan of collaborative science and is engaged in interdisciplinary research with geneticists and neuroscientists across the country. He is a fellow of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Life Science Research Foundation, and Schweppe Foundation, and his research is featured in college textbooks including Molecular Biology of the Cell and Principles of Virology. Greg established his laboratory in 2001 following his graduate and post-doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University and has recently founded Thyreos LLC, which will focus on the development of herpesvirus vaccines.