UAPB will serve as one of four hub sites for the institute.
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $6.1 million grant to the University of Arkansas to establish a research institute focused on virology and virus ecology.
Scientists will study multiple virus systems across all domains of life with the goal of establishing fundamental “rules of life” that apply to all viruses – or at least large sets of virus systems, according to a press release.
The grant establishes the Host-Virus Evolutionary Dynamics Institute, based at the U of A, with hub sites at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the University of Maine, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia and Universidad Interamericana in Puerto Rico.
The institute will be led by Ruben Michael Ceballos, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the U of A, collaborating with Michelle Evans-White, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Qingyang Zhang, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics.
Annisa Buckner, professor and chair of the Biology Department, and assistant professor Traci Hudson will lead research at UAPB. Their focus will be on a murine (mice or related rodents) roseolovirus system that may serve as an animal model for human herpesvirus infections that lead to multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic fatigue syndrome.
A central goal of the institute will be to expand the suite of viruses by recruiting other labs and institutions to participate in the research. Using a common experimental approach, data from studies of all virus systems will be compared and integrated to generate Rules of Life that drive variables such as species jump, virus harbor state, changes in transmission rates and emergence of highly virulent virus strains.
Han Tan, assistant professor in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine; Nathan Reyna, associate professor at Ouachita Baptist University; and Elizabeth Padilla-Crespo, assistant professor at La Universidad Interamericana will also serve as co-principal investigators on the NSF grant and will lead hubs at these partner institutions.