Catherine’s lab focuses on virology with a specific interest in antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs can be used to combat important viral diseases that cause medical and economic burdens; in addition they can be used as valuable tools to address basic research questions in virology.
Prior to her current position as Lecturer in Molecular Medicine at the University of St Andrews, Catherine worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Dr Eric Freed within the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) HIV Drug Resistance Program. During this time Catherine performed internationally recognized work on the novel HIV-1 maturation inhibitor bevirimat and made significant contributions to understanding the drugs mechanism of action, acquisition of drug resistance and performance in phase II clinical trials. Research into HIV-1 maturation inhibitors is on going in St Andrews; we are dissecting the relationship between drug binding and Gag-Gag multimerization during virus assembly and using a panel of maturation inhibitor analogues to understand drug structure-activity-relationships (SAR).
A second major research interest is to determine if fundamental knowledge about viral interferon (IFN) antagonist function can be leveraged into translational research to impact the treatment of viral diseases. All viruses, studied to date, encode at least one IFN antagonist, which is used to counteract the cellular IFN system, a powerful anti-viral innate immune response. We have recently completed a piece of work demonstrating a novel application for cellular IFN inhibitors to increase the growth of IFN-sensitive viruses in a cell-line of choice. This work is broadly useful for a range of viruses and applicable to diverse virological applications; including fundamental studies, vaccine and oncolytic virus production, virus diagnostics and techniques to isolate newly emerging viruses. As viral IFN antagonists play a critical role in virus replication and pathogenicity a major research aim is to determine if a novel class of virus specific drugs that work by inhibiting viral IFN antagonist function can be developed. Our approach is to develop a novel modular cell-based screening assay that can target a viral IFN antagonist of choice using a high-throughput screening platform. We are currently targeting various viral IFN antagonists from viruses for which there is a clinical need for new antiviral drugs. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Professor Rick Randall, University of St Andrews.
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