Webster To Give Chanock Memorial Lecture, Nov. 20
On the centennial of history’s deadliest pandemic, world-renowned virologist and influenza researcher Dr. Robert G. Webster will present the 2018 NIAID Robert M. Chanock Memorial Lecture. The talk, “Influenza pandemics of the past century: 1918-2009,” will take place in Bldg. 50, 1st floor conference room, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Webster is an emeritus member of the department of infectious diseases at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis.
The “Spanish” flu, which swept the globe in 1918-1919, killed more people worldwide than died in all the battles of World War I. Exactly how and where the 1918 virus originated and how it became pandemic in humans is still debated, but genetic evidence strongly suggests that the virus originated in birds. Webster will discuss a major focus of his research career: the role played by wild aquatic birds as a reservoir of influenza viruses and source of new pandemic strains that can infect people and other animals. He also will describe modern avian influenza viruses with pandemic potential, including H5N1, which emerged in Hong Kong in 1997, and H7N9, which has caused more than 1,600 cases and 623 deaths since its 2013 emergence. Webster will outline ways to mitigate future influenza pandemics through such measures as closing live poultry markets; developing influenza-resistant swine and poultry; and developing a universal influenza vaccine to protect against seasonal as well as pandemic virus strains.
Over the course of five decades, Webster’s research advanced the understanding of the evolution and control of novel influenza viruses. His other research interests include viral immunology, the structure and function of influenza virus proteins and the development of new vaccines and antivirals. His trainees span the globe, including those at NIAID, CDC and WHO. He also helped establish the NIAID-supported Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The lecture honors the late virologist Dr. Robert M. Chanock, who worked at NIAID for more than 50 years, including more than three decades as chief of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases. Among other accomplishments, Chanock was the first to identify respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in humans; he collaborated in developing a monoclonal antibody to prevent RSV disease. He also helped lead the development of vaccines against adenovirus and rotavirus and the first influenza vaccine formulated as a nasal spray.