#WorldUnited: Assoc Prof Luo Dahai

“Viruses are amazing species, simple yet difficult to understand,” says Assoc Prof Luo Dahai, NTU Provost’s Chair in Medicine and Principal Investigator of the Molecular Mechanisms of Viral Infection & Host Defence Laboratory at NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine.

Driven by a curiosity for how viruses replicate and how our immune system defends us against them, the infection and immunity expert studies the molecular events involved in the neverending battle between host and pathogen.

In particular, he has a keen interest in flaviviruses—a class of important mosquito-borne RNA viruses that include dengue, chikungunya and Zika—and is developing dengue- and Zika-specific inhibitors and other antiviral drugs with colleagues from NTU, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, and Duke-NUS Medical School.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Assoc Prof Luo leveraged his expertise in RNA viruses to characterise the SARS-CoV-2 virus replication process. He is also studying SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins for the development of rapid diagnostics with Prof Duan Hongwei, Associate Chair (Research) of NTU’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering.

Structure of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus main protease. Image credit: Luo Dahai.

“The more we know about the molecular biology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the mechanisms of infection and the host immune response, the better the chances we have of developing therapeutics,” says Assoc Prof Luo.

Named an EMBO Young Investigator by the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2018, Assoc Prof Luo’s research benefits from access to core facilities at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #17, August 2020).

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