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Sourav Haldar, Ph.D.,

DBT-Ramalingaswami Fellow,

Viral Fusion Pathway and Fusion Inhibitors

Viral infections are global health hazards due to the ever-changing viral genome and consequent drug resistance. Annual vaccines are the only prophylactic measures against the most animal virus. However, the molecular events leading to viral infection remain elusive, and there is a constant requirement of developing novel antivirals. Enveloped viruses gain entry to the host cells by membrane fusion. Membrane fusion is a spatiotemporally controlled ubiquitous process in physiology. It ranges from sperm-egg fusion, exocytosis, vesicular trafficking to viral entry. Although different proteins engage and catalyze the diverse fusion processes, the essential step, i.e., merging of two membrane enclosed compartments against a substantial kinetic barrier, is the same. Our group is interested in deciphering the viral fusion processes at the molecular level using biophysical, biochemical, and cell biological approaches. Viral fusion processes are not only important for the prevention of viral infections but also provide an opportunity to study fusion as one of the crucial physiological processes. We will develop tools and platforms to reconstitute viral fusion in native-like conditions to understand membrane remodeling and fusion pathways better. These approaches will enable us to discover, design, and evaluate novel fusion inhibitors as potential antiviral drugs. Our overarching goal is to develop antiviral strategies applicable to a wide range of viruses that employ similar modus operandi.