Group Hale

Molecular Biology of Human Respiratory Viruses and Host Innate Immunity

The Hale laboratory studies the molecular biology of human respiratory viruses and the host innate immune defenses that have evolved to help protect us against severe infections. Our major research focus concerns influenza viruses, pathogens that continue to cause significant seasonal human disease burdens, and which regularly threaten to emerge from animal reservoirs and instigate severe outbreaks (e.g. H5N1 and H7N9 ‘bird flu’) or even new pandemics (e.g. the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ or the 2009 ‘swine flu’).

We are particularly interested to study the detailed mechanisms by which human cells detect that they are infected by viruses and trigger innate antiviral immune defense programs that restrict infection. We use a multidisciplinary approach that often combines modern molecular virology, large-scale proteomics, and genetic tools to dissect these processes at the cellular and molecular level. One goal is to determine the basis for how these powerful innate immune defenses sometimes fail to protect us effectively during viral infections, or fail to protect particular ‘at risk’ individuals. Our work should help to understand the pathology underlying certain viral diseases, and might be exploitable in the future to develop novel therapeutic concepts.

We are grateful to be well-funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), Novartis Foundation for Medical-Biological Research, and the University of Zurich. In the past, our work has also been funded by the European Research Council (ERC), EU, Wellcome Trust, Royal Society and Medical Research Council (MRC) UK.