GVN Center and Member Spotlight

March 24, 2022 – GVN SPOTLIGHT ON: Dr. William M. de Souza

Dr. William M. de Souza
University Texas Medical Branch-UTMB, Galveston National Laboratory
Microbiology and Immunology

How did you learn and what do you hope to gain from GVN and Fellowship Program?

I learned about the Global Virus Network through its members and GVN Postdoctoral Fellowship Program from Dr. Scott Weaver, my current supervisor. As a GVN Postdoctoral fellow, I am hoping to receive training in cutting the edge research in arboviruses and (re-)emerging viruses, grantsmanship, expand my scientific expertise, and increase the research collaborators with the Global Virus Network. Ultimately, the GVN Fellowship Program will accelerate the establishment and the development of my research activities, and it will help me to pursue my independent career in research, building my own research program at a major biomedical research institution.

What are your research interests and accomplishments?

Emerging viral diseases are increasing global public health threats, affecting millions of people with thousands of deaths and severe economic losses worldwide. My overarching research career goal is to conduct multidisciplinary research based on virology, genomics, and data science approach investigating mechanisms (drivers and patterns) associated with emerging viruses and develop strategies for anticipating, preparing for, and reducing the burden of future outbreaks and epidemics.

Professional Summary

Since July 2021, I have been a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Dr. Scott C. Weaver in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. My research focuses on investigating mechanisms associated with emerging viral diseases applying genomics, data science, and virology methods, and ultimately generating applicable knowledge and tools to help anticipate and mitigate emerging viruses. As a graduate student (2011-2017), I received my training in virology, learning classical, molecular, genomics, and computational biology methods applied to emerging viruses during my M.S. and Ph.D. degree studies at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. During my Ph.D. studies, I spent an entire year learning bioinformatics and metagenomics analysis in an internship at the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom (2015-2016). Then, in my first postdoctoral training at the University of São Paulo with an internship at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom (2020-2021), I learned epidemiology and data science analysis as it is applied to emerging viruses. To date, my research has been to contribute to elucidating aspects of emerging virus pathogenesis, evolution, and virus discovery fields with over 70 original articles. I have participated in and led collaborations with investigators from multiple countries. Since 2011, different foundations have funded my research through several scholarships, fellowships, and grants. I am a member of the Peribunyaviridae (2019) and Hepeviridae (2020) study groups of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. Also, I have been guest editor and peer-reviewer of several leading virology journals (e.g., Clinical & Translational Immunology, Clinical Microbiology and Infection, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Lancet Regional Health – Americas). Lastly, I had a brief experience as a Guest Lecturer at the University of Campinas, Brazil (2019).

Overview of the University

The Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) is a sophisticated high containment research facility that serves as a critically important resource in the global fight against infectious diseases. The GNL is located on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch and operates under the umbrella of UTMB’s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) provides funding for the BSL4 laboratories and operations at the GNL, and the lab’s top priority is research to develop diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to combat emerging and re-emerging diseases that threaten public health, not only in our country, but around the world.

Researchers at the GNL are internationally known for their expertise working with pathogens including Ebola and Marburg and emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19 and MERS. Scientists not only research the pathogens (viruses) themselves, but they also study the vectors for disease threats: mosquitos, which carry and transmit West Nile, Zika, Malaria, chikungunya and many other diseases, and ticks, which cause diseases that are of grave concern and top priority to the National Institutes of Health. In addition to basic research that aides understanding about transmission and pathogenesis of emerging viruses, GNL scientists are developing medical countermeasures for disease threats, including dangerous pathogens called Select Agents, which are high priority for study because of their high mortality rates, limited treatments and potential to be used as weapons around the world.

The Galveston National Laboratory is home to research that is funded by NIAID, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and other federal agencies, as well as academic partners, private foundations, and the Biopharmaceutical industry.

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