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Frontier Leaders: A systems approach to virus entry

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Ari Helenius, ETH Zurich

When 09 Nov, 2009 from
04:00 pm to 06:00 pm
Where Auditorium
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Frontier Leaders of Today
for the Scientists of Tomorrow

ITQB PhD Program Seminar Series


Title: A systems approach to virus entry

Speaker: Ari Helenius

Affiliation: ETH, CH

More Information: Poster



Animal viruses make use of a variety of endocytic pathways for productive entry into their host cells. We are analyzing the ‘landscape’ of these pathways using enveloped and non enveloped viruses, and a panel of techniques ranging from single virus tracking by light microscopy to siRNA silencing. Automated, high through-put siRNA silencing screens is used to identify host cell components involved in assisting virus entry and uncoating. To show one example, we have found using these methods, that vaccinia virus uses apoptotic mimicry and macropinocytosis to enter host cells. It induces a dramatic signaling response triggered by phosphatidylserine (PS) in the viral membrane.



Ari Helenius has been full Professor of Biochemistry at the ETH Zurich since 1 November 1997. He is currently the head of several interdisciplinary projects in the field of protein folding and virus-cell interaction.

Prof. Helenius was born on September 3, 1944 in Oulu, Finland and studied biochemistry at the University of Helsinki. He received his doctorate under Professor Kai Simons and was awarded the Komppa Prize for the best dissertation on chemistry in Finland in 1973. After six years as staff scientist at the European Laboratory for Molecular Biology (EMBL) in Heidelberg, he was appointed Associate Professor and in 1983 Full Professor at the Department of Cell Biology at Yale University, New Haven, CT. From 1992 to 1997 he was chairman of this department.

His research centers on membrane biology, virology and protein chemistry. In his group Prof. Helenius is currently working on two questions:

1) By which mechanism are viruses able to enter host cells and how do they reach the nucleus where they multiply?
2) How are newly synthesized proteins folded within the organelles of the living cell, and how does the cellular quality control system work that decides whether proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum are correctly folded or not?

This work uses methods from biochemistry, cell and molecular biology.
Prof. Helenius has published more than 250 articles in high impact journals, including Cell, Science or Annual Review of Biochemistry, and in books, and he has presented many endowed and keynote lectures throughout the world. 

Prof. Helenius is a member of the EMBO Council (2007-2009). He has also been a member of the Scientific Advisory Boards from distinguished research institutions, and he currently is a member of the Research Commission of ETH Zurich. He has been the editor of many journals, including the EMBO Journal (Senior Editor) and Trends in Cell Biology. Recently, he has also been co-founder and is a Board member of a Biotech company: 3-V Biosciences Inc.

He has been recipient of many honors and awards throughout his life, and more recently, he received The Marcel Benoist Price (The Swiss Research Prize) (2007), a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (2008), and he is a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2009). 

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