Influenza viruses are of high medical concern in humans and can cause devastating economic problems for the poultry and pig livestock industries. Currently, we have vaccines and antiviral drugs available, but both come with severe limitations. Vaccines cannot protect against novel strains of influenza virus and must be continually updated. In particular, novel influenza viruses of zoonotic origin would not be covered by currently available vaccine formulations. Furthermore, we experience increasing problems with drug-resistance of influenza viruses, and new antivirals with lower chances of resistance developing are urgently sought.
In our research, we study entry of influenza viruses into their host cells, and the virus-host interactions required during this process. This is the first key stage of infection that all influenza viruses must accomplish, and is therefore an excellent target for antiviral drugs. Moreover, differential host cell requirements for influenza viruses of different host origin can impact the zoonotic potential of viruses and are thus important to understand. Methodologies employed in our lab to study influenza virus entry include RNAi screening, proteomic approaches (in particular phospho-proteomics), transcriptomics and state-of-the-art microscopy.