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Laura Newcomb

Laura Newcomb

Professor, Summer Institute Participant

Contact

Professor
Biology
Office Phone(909) 537-5542
Office LocationBI-310
Summer Institute Participant
IssuesX
Office Phone(909) 537-5542
Office LocationBI-310

Education

B.S., Biology, Minor in Chemistry, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

Ph.D., Biomolecular Chemistry, University of Wisconsin - Madison

NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin

Courses/Teaching

BIOL 3120 - Molecular Biology

BIOL 5310 - Advanced Molecular Techniques

BIOL 5320 - Virology

BIOL 6020 - Professional Writing in the Biological Sciences.

BIOL 6300 - Advanced Topics in Molecular Biology; subtopics include RNA Biology, Viral Sequences in Mammalian Genomes

BIOL 6350 - Advanced Topics in Immunology; subtopics include Viral Immunology

 

Research and Teaching Interests

Research in my laboratory aims to understand how RNA viruses, such as coronaviruses and influenza viruses, hijack our cellular machinery in order to reproduce. Our current research focuses on influenza A virus. Seasonal influenza virus accounts for over 36,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. More worrisome are the periodic pandemics caused by emerging influenza A subtypes. Influenza pandemics have occurred at three times in the past century (1918, 1957 and 1968) and once in the current century (2009). The most notorious being the pandemic of 1918 which is thought to have killed more people than WWI. Although the world has recently experienced an emerging Coronavirus pandemic, there remains a real possibility that a mutation or recombination event will result in the emergence of a highly pathogenic easily transmissible influenza strain that will cause a severe and deadly pandemic.

Our research focuses on the influenza Nucleoprotein (NP) which has greater than 90% protein sequence homology among influenza A isolates and as such may be a good target for novel antiviral therapies effective against multiple influenza A subtypes. NP plays an essential role in regulating influenza viral RNA replication and directly interacts with both viral and host factors during the influenza lifecycle. Our lab is interested in defining essential NP interactions. We are investigating the role of NP interaction with the influenza viral RNA dependent RNA polymerase, which in vitro data suggests regulates the switch from viral RNA transcription to viral RNA replication. We are also investigating the role of the N-terminus of NP, proposed to interact with the host RNA helicase UAP56. If these interactions prove essential for successful viral replication in the host cell, defining these molecular contacts may lay foundation for development of antiviral therapies which disrupt these interactions.