Research Focus of Prof. Ian Wilson: Structural Studies of the Immune System, Viral Pathogens, and Vaccine Design
Much of his recent work is focused on HIV-1 and influenza viruses. The 1918 flu, which killed 20-40 million people worldwide, is being investigated through structural and binding studies of the 1918 viral proteins, such as the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase, as well as other the viral proteins. The avian H5N1 and swine H1N1 influenza virus HA structures have been determined as well as mutations that enhance binding to human receptors that may allow the virus to cross the species barrier into humans and be transmissible. His research team has also determined structures of almost all of the rare, broadly neutralizing antibodies against the HIV-1 envelope proteins, gp120 and gp41, in order to elucidate the sites of vulnerability that can be used for HIV-1 vaccine design. A very exciting project on broadly neutralizing antibodies with influenza virus has revealed novel epitopes that are of great value for structure-assisted vaccine development. They have defined a broadly neutralizing epitope in all group 1 influenza subtypes and are working on other antibodies that recognize group 2 as well as those that cross all subtypes. Other flu projects are associated with the nucleoproteins, polymerases and neuraminidases in order to understand how influenza replicates.