Contributions of Dr Kuang-Yu Chen to our understanding of host adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 earned her an esteemed Wellcome Trust grant.
Dr Kuang-Yu Chen, a post-doc in the Fodor lab, has been awarded the highly prestigious Wellcome Early Career Award for her work on SARS-CoV-2. The award provides funding opportunities for talented researchers at the beginning of their independent research careers, aiming to support important projects with implications for human life, health, and wellbeing.
Beginning her research career at Institut Pasteur, Kuang-Yu completed her PhD in Naffakh’s group, investigating the mechanism of genetic reassortment in the evolution of the influenza virus. It was this property of the virus that led to the viral H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic in 2009, and gaining deeper understanding of genetic reassortment plays a crucial role in predicting future pathogenic variants. Kuang-Yu’s work in the Naffakh group has also assisted in developing a high-throughput antiviral screening assay during the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.
In 2021, Kuang-Yu joined the Fodor lab, where she continues to work on SARS-CoV-2, and where she has contributed to the G2P-UK National Virology Consortium, a national research collaboration which aims to understand the threats of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Kuang-Yu’s work is centered around the RNA polymerase function in SARS-CoV-2 variants, and the mutations that lead to host adaption, with an additional research focus on the influenza viral polymerase-host interactions and the host factors involved in viral replication.
Kuang-Yu’s 5-year Wellcome grant will begin in 2024, when she will work as an independent researcher within the Fodor lab, studying the mechanisms of genome replication and viral-host interactions of SARS-CoV-2. In her own words, Kuang-Yu aims to “improve our understanding of host adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 and improve the antiviral preventive and therapeutic approaches” where her work may have significant implications for avoiding future viral outbreaks.
Written by Georgie Fisher (GEO facility)
Edited by Aleksandra Pluta (Murphy lab) @aj_pluta