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Joseph DeRisi is a Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
His research focuses on two distinct areas: malaria and new viral pathogen discovery. Dr. DeRisi is this year’s recipient of the Eli Lilly and Company Research Award, granted in recognition of fundamental research of unusual merit in microbiology or immunology by an individual on the threshold of his or her career.
Discovering new viral pathogens seems like exciting work, and DeRisi has lots of ideas for prospecting. In one recent success with their viral microarray, his group recently helped identify the virus responsible for a devastating disease among rare parrots and other birds: proventricular dilatation disease, or PDD, has been recognized for 30 years, but veterinarians didn’t know the cause or how to control it. Now that DeRisi’s group has pinpointed Avian Bornavirus as the culprit and sequenced its genome, therapies and control measures to help both captive birds and birds in the wild can’t be far behind.
In this interview, I asked Dr. DeRisi whether he’s interested in putting the microarray approach to virus discovery to work in uncovering the causes of some human illnesses, especially those diseases we suspect might be spread by viruses, but for which we’ve never found a virus responsible. He has some very interesting ideas for where to start. We also talked about his work on identifying the SARS virus, and a new approach in the ongoing fight against malaria.
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ID3 Podcast Image Provided by James Gathany Courtesy of the CDC.