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Please join us for our BioE Seminar: "Virology Amidst a Pandemic and Beyond: From the Frontlines of COVID-19 Response to the Frontiers of Antiviral Development."

Carolina Arias Gonzales, Ph.D.

Group Leader, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub
Harold J.Plous Award Recipient (2021-22)

Monday, May 13 2024 at 10:00AM
Location: ESB 2001  
Host:Beth Pruitt

A light breakfast will be served!


Title: Virology Amidst a Pandemic and Beyond: From the Frontlines of COVID-19 Response to the Frontiers of Antiviral Development


The global crisis of COVID-19 highlighted our lack of preparedness to respond to outbreaks of emerging viruses. As the pandemic was declared, our team rapidly mobilized to help address the emergency by improving accessibility to COVID-19 diagnostics and facilitating the detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants. We spearheaded local testing initiatives, offered guidance for establishing safety recommendations for the UCSB community, and fostered critical partnerships with healthcare professionals and public health authorities at the county and state levels. Our efforts helped mitigate disease spread, monitor viral evolution, and facilitate a return to normalcy. With the threat of COVID-19 now waning, we are focusing on identifying host-directed, broad-spectrum antivirals that can be rapidly deployed to combat future epidemics. For this purpose, we use a multifaceted, virus-agnostic strategy involving pharmacological, genetic, and functional screenings to identify host factors that are not acutely critical to normal cellular processes, yet are essential for viral replication. In the short span of one year, our initial studies identified four inhibitors of host factors that show antiviral activity against human viral pathogens belonging to the herpesvirus, poxvirus, and flavivirus families. These exciting results illustrate the potential for continued exploration of disabling host components as a promising avenue for repurposing or developing versatile broad-spectrum antivirals.


Carolina, originally from Colombia, earned her BS and MSc in Microbiology from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. She then pursued her Ph.D. degree at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, where she studied virus–host interactions in herpesviruses and poxviruses in the lab of Ian Mohr. As a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Don Ganem at UCSF and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), she studied the genome-wide transcriptional and translational regulation of the Kaposi’s sarcoma–associated herpesvirus (KSHV/HHV8). As a faculty member at UC Santa Barbara, she investigated the mechanisms by which herpesviruses and flaviviruses take control of the cell’s protein synthesis and folding machineries. Using comparative virology and mechanistic analyses, the Arias team at CZ Biohub SF aims to uncover host-encoded viral vulnerabilities that can be exploited for developing next-generation broad-spectrum antivirals.



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