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Participation in CRC 1021 - RNA Viruses: the Metabolism of viral RNA, Immune Response of the Host Cells, and Viral Pathogenesis

Duration: 2013-2020

Prof. Dr. Stephan Becker
Faculty of Medicine - Institute for Virology
Philipps University of Marburg
Hans-Meerwein-Str. 2
35043 Marburg

Prof. Dr. John Ziebuhr
Medical Virology
Justus Liebig University Giessen
Frankfurterstrasse 107
35392 Giessen


Short description:

The universities of Giessen and Marburg started a new collaborative research center (CRC) in 2013, which is committed to the topic of so-called RNA viruses; among these, for example, are influenza A or the SARS virus. The German Research Foundation will be sponsoring the establishment of this CRC with around eight million Euros for the next four years.

The vast majority of those viruses that are currently spreading have genomes based on RNA. The particular biological characteristics of these RNA viruses favor their spread across species from one host to another, especially from animals to humans.

RNA viruses can adapt especially well to new conditions because they have unusually large genetic variability. The reason for this is that the enzyme polymerase, with which the genotype of these viruses is reproduced, differentiates itself in one decisive point from the polymerases of other viruses - it does not correct errors that frequently occur during replication. In this way numerous new virus variants crop up in a short amount of time, which in many cases possess new characteristics. The unreliability of viral RNA polymerase while copying the viral genome is also the reason why RNA viruses adapt especially quickly to new hosts or why they can also develop new pathogenic characteristics.

The initiators of this new network are planning to research RNA viruses on several levels. These include the fate of viral RNA in the infected cell, especially its synthesis and its multifaceted biological tasks. Other focal points will depict viral factors that determine the severity of the symptoms as well as cellular defense mechanisms against virus infections and viral factors that work against these mechanisms. For this, the participating scientists will examine especially those viruses that are genetically closely related but are different in their pathogenic characteristics. They hope to discover new intervention opportunities against virus infections. A central intent in the long term will be to develop new models with which one can research highly pathogenic agents such as Marburg virus, Ebola, or Lassa fever even better than before.

This new network consists of 15 academic work groups from Marburg and Giessen. The CRC can support itself with longstanding intensive cooperations and advances successful research traditions in the field of virology at both the Universities of Marburg and Giessen even further. At Justus Liebig University Giessen, CRC 535, "Invasion mechanisms and replication strategies of pathogens," was up and running from 1997 to 2008.