Erica Ollmann Saphire, Ph.D., is a Professor of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. Her research explains, at the molecular level, how and why viruses are pathogenic and provides the roadmap for medical defense. Her team has solved the structures of the Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, Bundibugyo and Lassa virus glycoproteins, explained how they remodel these structures as they drive themselves into cells, how their proteins suppress immune function and where human antibodies can defeat these viruses.
Prof. Saphire is currently leading a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported consortium to evaluate antibody therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2 to prevent and treat COVID-19. This consortium, CoVIC (covic.lji.org) analyzes the world’s leading therapeutic candidates side-by-side, and uses LJI’s powerful pair of Titan Krios microscopes for high-resolution analysis of the antibody interactions.
She was also the galvanizing force behind the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Immunotherapeutic Consortium and is directing this NIAID-supported organization. This consortium, Center of Excellence in Translational Research, unites 44 previously competing academic, industrial and government labs across five continents to understand and provide antibody therapeutics against Ebola, Marburg, Lassa and other viruses. A recent discovery from Instructor Kathryn Hastie revealed why neutralizing antibodies had been so difficult to elicit against Lassa virus, and provided not only the templates for the needed vaccine, but the molecule itself: a Lassa surface glycoprotein engineered to remain in the right conformation to inspire the needed antibody response. This molecule is the basis for international vaccine efforts against Lassa. Other work in their lab reveals how these and other viruses replicate and assemble using a variety of biophysical, biochemical, and immunological methods.
Dr. Saphire’s work has been recognized at the White House with the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, with young investigator awards from the International Congress of Antiviral Research, the American Society for Microbiology, and the MRC Centre for Virus Research in the United Kingdom. She has been awarded a Fulbright Global Scholar fellowship from the United States Department of State and a Mercator Fellowship from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, to develop international collaborations using cryoelectron microscopy to further global health.
Happy birthday Onyeka!
Tomorrow and live in person. twitter.com/ljiresearch/st…
TET enzymes never cease to amaze. New findings by @AnjanaRaoLab has uncovered one way TET deletion can lead to aneuploidy. #cancer #CellBiology twitter.com/ljiresearch/st…
Thank you @WHAMnow for advancing this important research into sex-based differences in the immune system and its influence on neurodegenerative diseases. twitter.com/ljiresearch/st…
I love the IEDB Users Meetings - especially the chat in which so many scientists from around the world report from which cities, villages, universities, institutes, and other research sites they are joining and contributing. #iedbuw2022 twitter.com/iedb_/status/1…
mAb #2 (12.1F, green), like 8.9F, also requires its glycans. 12.1F blocks the likely LAMP receptor binding site. mAb #3 (37.2D, yellow), finds its glycans to be a hindrance, not a help. It bridges two copies of Lassa GP at the base. We think it blocks the conf. changes of fusion.
The info: Antibody #1 (8.9F) binds the apex, one Fab simultaneously in contact with all three copies of the glycoprotein, like Ebola's 1C3 (Milligan 2022). The CDR H3 of mAb #1 overlaps the binding footprint of the matriglycan receptor (Katz 2022 from Diskin Lab at Weizmann).
1st-author Haoyang Li @LassaHunter and co-leads Luis Branco @ZalgenLabs & Kathryn Hastie @ljiresearch were in this long-term challenge, at different times, stalwart, ingenious, gallant, astute.... propelled by the human need for Lassa ther. & vax #LoveVirology #LifeWithoutDisease
17 yr effort beginning w/ sci/med leaders, survivors in W. Africa, dogma-shifting mAb work @Tulane @ZalgenLabs @utmbnews The struct bio & prot. engineering here grew to a crescendo @ljiresearch bcs of facilities that made it possible & collabs that made it fun. Grateful for both. twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Today @ScienceTM how a 1st-in-class #antibody cocktail targets #LassaFever virus. #CryoEM & wetlab explain how the mAbs navigate a thick #glycan shield & use 3 complementary mech. of neut. The finisher: novel vaccine candidate to elicit more Ab like these. tinyurl.com/3vfcr23f
We are so fortunate to have Reika Watanabe as a member of the lab. Her images are stunning. Viewing macromolecular assemblies inside the cells in which they operate, in the presence of factors (known and unknown) they need, is the forefront of structural biology. @ljiresearch twitter.com/ljiresearch/st…
Awards & Honors
- Fulbright Global Scholar Award, 2019-2020
- Mercator Fellowship, DFG, Philipps Universitaet Marburg, 2018
- Eli Lilly and Company-Elanco Research Award, American Society for Microbiology, 2016
- Finalist, Classy Award for the Most Innovative Nonprofits and Social Enterprises of 2016 for VIC, 2016
- "Cool Woman", Girl Scouts San Diego, 2016
- William Prusoff Young Investigator Award, Int. Society for Antiviral Research, 2015
- Young Investigator Award, ASBMB, 2015
- Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2015
- Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 2014
- Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, 2009
- Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2009-2015
- ICAAC Young Investigator Award, American Society for Microbiology, 2006
- Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2003-2008
- New Initiatives Award in Global Infectious Disease, Ellison Medical Foundation, 2003
- Surhain Sidhu Award, 2003