Congratulations to Alex, who was recently awarded first place at the BioNJ Company and Pitch Presentation Competition! Held as part of BioNJ’s 11th Annual BioPartnering Conference, and in partnership with JP Morgan and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the competition allowed life scientists and entrepreneurs from across the US to present work from their companies and start-ups.
As president of Acurasset Therapeutics, Alex pitched the start-up’s efforts to develop small-molecule therapeutics against HBV infection.
Princeton’s press release can be found here. And a full press release from BioNJ can be read here.
Congratulations to Michael Schwoerer, who has been named an HMEI-STEP fellow by the High Meadows Environmental Institute!
The fellowship, which supports projects that investigate environmental policy decisions, is designed for graduate students to pursue a two-year certificate in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. To this end, Michael will be exploring how insect-specific viruses, such as Musca domestica, can be used to target invasive insect species as an alternative to chemical and biology pest control strategies.
Michael says that he is “extremely excited to leverage the Ploss lab's broad virological expertise to develop policy solutions for this pressing environmental issue!”
The Ploss lab is happy to announce we have received a grant titled “Combatting fetal-maternal mortality caused by enterically transmitted viral hepatitis” from the Center for Health and Wellbeing, for Michael Schwoerer’s work with hepatitis E virus!
Infection with hepatitis E virus (HEV) has presented a trenchant threat to global health and wellbeing for decades, with annual infections in the tens of millions. HEV infection poses a particularly deadly risk to pregnant women, with mortality rates of nearly 30%. In collaboration with the MacMillan lab, Michael aims to identify host factors that are essential for the life cycle of this virus. Results from this work hold promise to define novel targets and will highlight new, more effective intervention strategies for treating patients afflicted by this dreadful disease.
Why has it historically been so difficult to study hepatitis B virus (HBV)? Which animals can be infected? What blocks interspecies transmission? How have scientists tried to overcome these challenges, and how close are we to developing a cure for HBV infection?
If these questions interest you, check out the Ploss lab’s newest review paper, “Animal Models of Hepatitis B Virus Infection-Success, Challenges, and Future Directions,” published in Viruses. In this review, Yongzhen Liu and Stephanie Maya explain why so few animals can be used to study HBV, and how researchers have creatively overcome this challenge by developing surrogate animal models like human chimeric mice.
Considering that more than 250 million people suffer from chronic HBV infection worldwide, this review is not to be missed!
How to build your very own a human chimeric mouse for studying HBV!
On April 22nd, 2021, Alex gave a keynote lecture at the first international Schaller Virology e-Symposium, hosted by the Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation. His talk was titled “The making of a killer: new insights in the molecular mechanism of hepatitis B virus persistence.”
Says Alex, “It has been a great pleasure and honor to present some of our work at a symposium named after Heinz Schaller, one of the key figures in the history of hepatitis B virology. I very much enjoyed interacting with students and postdocs during the (virtual) social hour.”
Congratulations to Lei Wei for being invited to present a Young Scientists Choice Lecture at the Hepatitis B Foundation and Blumberg Institute! Aptly titled “Making a murderer – Formation of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) Genomic cccDNA,” Wei’s talk showcased his research on how HBV cccDNA is formed during the viral life cycle. We’re very proud that Wei was selected to give such a prestigious talk!
Says Wei, “Hepatitis B Foundation and the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute are the leading forces combating hepatitis B viral infection and liver cancer, which claims close to a million lives every year. It was a great honor to meet the world-leading scientists and physicians in the field and hear their feedback on our work. I would love to thank the organizers for their generous invitation and our lab members for their tremendous support.”
Princeton University's annual research magazine, Discovery: Research at Princeton, has featured the Ploss Lab's ongoing COVID research. The article states:
To make SARS-CoV-2 safer for handling in the laboratory, Alexander Ploss, associate professor of molecular biology, and his team are developing a less virulent version of the virus. The strain, developed by reverse engineering the virus, lacks components needed to infect cells. Researchers can use this non-infectious version to test new therapies.
To search for treatments for SARS-CoV-2 acute respiratory distress syndrome, the team collaborated with scientists at Boston University to develop new mouse models that contain human lung tissue. The Ploss lab and their collaborators in Boston are working on a vaccine against the virus modeled on a successful vaccine against yellow fever.
“In addition to these lines of experiments, we have been able to establish very productive collaborations with others at Princeton to identify components that are essential for SARS-CoV-2 entry and replication,” Ploss said.
A very warm Ploss Lab welcome to our newest undergrads! Joining our ranks are:
Daniel Beard ‘22
Mansi Totwani ‘22
Debbie Park ‘22
Maricar Almeda ‘22
Olivia Sakaguchi ‘23
Christine Ngyuen ‘23
Although the pandemic has restricted in-lab training, our new undergrads will be working on virtual projects and will participate in regular workshops with the rest of the lab, which will include research talks, journal clubs and virtual training on research techniques!... Read more about Welcome to our newest undergrads!
Not even a pandemic can stop us from celebrating the holidays in the Ploss Lab! We said goodbye to 2020 in socially distant style... from the comforts of our living rooms. Although we were apart, the virtual format gave a us chance to welcome back esteemed Ploss Lab alumni, and we even had a surprise guest appearance the fluffiest member of the Gaska-Pohl household!
Alex presented a virtual talk titled “New Insights into the mechanism of hepatitis B virus persistence” at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Alex says, “It was great to share some of the newest advances from our lab with a wonderful group of colleagues at CINJ. Hopefully, we’ll soon be able to meet again in person.”