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Alumnus Derek Trobaugh Helping Scientists Make Key Discoveries on Viral Diseases

April 3, 2014

Trobaugh Profile

Young Scientist: Derek Trobaugh, a 2006 applied biology alumnus, is a postdoctoral scholar at University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research. (Photo provided)

     Ground-breaking research that could aid in the development of vaccines and treatments for deadly viral diseases is bringing attention to alumnus Derek Trobaugh and other scientists at University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research (CVR).

     Trobaugh, a postdoctoral scholar at Pittsburgh, was lead author on an article published in the premiere scientific journal Nature (February, 2014).

     CVR scientists discovered that a mosquito-borne virus that kills about half of the people it infects uses a mechanism to “hijack” one of the cellular regulatory systems of its hosts to suppress immunity. This discovery could aid in the development of vaccines and treatments for eastern equine encephalitis virus, a rare but deadly disease found in the United States. It also may be useful in efforts to inhibit other diseases, such as West Nile virus, dengue virus, rhinovirus, and SARS.

     “For the first time, we have shown how a virus evades its host’s immune system using this particular strategy ultimately exacerbating disease progression,” says Trobaugh, a 2006 applied biology alumnus who went on to earn a PhD at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “This new discovery could help scientists in the development of antivirals and vaccines against important mosquito-borne diseases,” he adds.

     Trobaugh is among scientists conducting infectious disease research at CVR, recognized nationally for the study of SARS, AIDS, influenza, immunology, and drug discovery. It now plans to expand its footprint in the area of vaccine research and development.

     “These are exciting times in the research field,” Trobaugh says. “I’m very fortunate to be contributing to a group of scientists making important discoveries at the forefront of this key area of science.”