Colorado State University hosts international conference on virus research

About 1,400 virus experts from around the world will visit Colorado State University this week for a conference on discoveries in infectious disease.

Among the guest speakers is a Nobel laureate famous for findings on how tumor viruses interact with genetic material in cells.

The annual meeting of the American Society for Virology will be on campus Saturday through Wednesday and will feature a variety of presentations and discussions on viruses, a topic of rising public and scientific concern.

Jeff Wilusz, a CSU professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology and a lead organizer, noted that measles and polioviruses – infections that had been controlled – are reappearing around the world, and several cases of the emerging MERS-coronavirus have been diagnosed in the U.S.

“Closer to home, West Nile virus is very likely lurking in the wetlands of our fair city, waiting to re-emerge again this year,” he said. “To sum this up in a word, I think ‘yikes’ will do nicely.”

Scientists are studying every aspect of these and other viruses to better detect, treat and cure the infections.

Wilusz said it is an honor for CSU to host the 33rd meeting of the American Society of Virology, and is a sign of the university’s expertise in infectious disease. The gathering will feature scientists from more than 40 countries delivering more than 950 presentations on their virus research.

“I can’t be 100 percent certain, but I have a feeling that there may be a lot of viruses out there saying ‘yikes’ as well when they hear about this cutting-edge conference,” Wilusz said.

David Baltimore, the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, will deliver the keynote address Saturday evening on “Gene-based Antiviral Protection.” Baltimore, who won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and the 1999 National Medal of Science, served as president of Caltech from 1997 to 2006. His groundbreaking research includes transferring new genes into immune cells to strengthen the immune system’s resistance to pathogens and cancer growth. His team has also used gene transfer to reprogram muscle cells in mice to make anti-HIV and anti-influenza virus antibodies.

Other highlights include four plenary sessions on the full circle of issues that surround a viral infection, seven “State-of-the-Art” lectures that deal with cutting-edge specialty issues and special lunchtime symposia on the practical side of virology.

In addition, Two22 Brewery in Centennial has created a special beer for the conference, “Hopatitis Ale.”

Infectious disease research has long been a key strength at CSU. At the Arthropod-borne and Infectious Diseases Laboratory, CSU researchers work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the prevention, diagnosis and control of hantaviruses, Lyme disease, mosquito-borne encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue and parasitic diseases. In addition, CSU created the Infectious Disease Supercluster seven years ago to speed the transition of research on such diseases into the marketplace.

More information about the conference is at