The Viral Genetics and Systems Serology lab at WRAIR, whose research usually focuses on HIV viral genetics, has shifted their attention to COVID-19 during the current global health emergency. “It’s critical that people in various fields come together as we focus on learning everything we can about this virus,” said Dr. Morgane Rolland, chief of Viral Genetics at WRAIR. “Teamwork will be vitally important to stem the tide of this pandemic.”
Dr. Rolland and her team recently characterized SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus diversification since the beginning of the pandemic and found that the SARS-CoV-2 genome has evolved through a mostly random process rather than through adaptation to the human hosts it encounters. Given the low level of genetic variation, Rolland thinks that a promising vaccine candidate would likely be equally efficacious against all currently circulating variants of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Read more about the paper here.
The Rolland Lab analyzes molecular sequence data to infer evolutionary and population dynamic processes, while also integrating structural bioinformatics to the analysis of pathogen sequences. Our studies aim to characterize the interplay between evolutionary dynamics and the host immune pressure in the context of natural infection or following vaccination. The Rolland Lab has pioneered sieve analyses methods, aiding understanding of the genetic consequences of vaccine-induced immune responses in breakthrough infections, thereby providing insights on potential mechanisms of vaccine protection or on risks for future vaccine resistance.
The fact that vaccine efficacy was seen in the absence of high titers of neutralizing antibodies in the context of HIV-1 or Dengue vaccination led us to develop a systems serology platform allowing us to profile Fc-antibody function biophysically and functionally. With this approach, the lab integrates data from different immunological assays generated by the Rolland group and other MHRP labs using machine learning methods to provide a systems-level understanding of antibody function beyond neutralization.
Dr Rolland’s group includes scientists with expertise in evolutionary biology, population genetics, structural bioinformatics, immunology, mathematical modeling and statistics.