All plenary sessions will be presented in Alumni Hall, Auditorium, 7th Floor.

Using Viruses To Select for Reduced Virulence of Bacterial Pathogens in Human Patients
4:00 p.m., Friday, 19 October

Paul E. Turner, PhD
Elihu Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Yale University

By studying viruses and the evolutionary genetics and genomics of microbes, Paul E. Turner, PhD, seeks to understand how viruses evolve and adapt to environmental changes and obstacles. Viral evolution is essential to viruses’ proliferation within novel host species, response to changes in host immunity, and survival at high temperatures in a range of environmental conditions. Investigating these processes could reveal new strategies to harness viruses for therapeutic applications and combat pathogenic viruses. Turner’s lab explores how viruses can be used in phage therapy as an alternative to antibiotics—an especially useful approach against antibiotic-resistant bacteria—and to attack cancer cells via oncolytic therapy.

By using RNA viruses, DNA viruses, and bacteria as model systems to explore ecological and evolutionary theory, Turner and colleagues probe fundamental questions surrounding virus ecology, genetic exchange, and the evolution of infectious disease. Throughout their investigations, Turner’s lab team relies on highly interdisciplinary approaches involving microbiology, computational biology, genomics, molecular biology, and mathematical modeling. They study and use a variety of arthropod-borne viruses, like vesicular stomatitis, Sindbis, dengue, and chikungunya viruses, grown in tissue culture and in live mosquitos.

Turner received his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Rochester and his zoology PhD from Michigan State University. He was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland and an NSF–NATO fellow at the University of Valencia in Spain. He completed a molecular virology fellowship at the National Institutes of Health Laboratory of Clinical Investigation. Turner has been appointed to multiple committee positions with the National Research Council and National Science Foundation and has chaired the American Society for Microbiology’s evolutionary and genomic microbiology division.