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Flu Fighter Webster To Give Kinyoun Lecture, Nov. 19

By Jeff Minerd

Dr. Robert G. Webster, one of the world's leading influenza researchers, will deliver this year's Kinyoun Lecture, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Webster will give his talk, titled "The Origin and Control of Pandemic Influenza Viruses," on Monday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. in Lipsett Amphitheater, Bldg. 10.

He is professor of virology and molecular biology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. His lab, working in collaboration with the World Health Organization, established that the wild aquatic birds of the world, such as ducks and shorebirds, are the natural reservoirs of the influenza virus. Since then, Webster has regularly traveled the globe to monitor wild and domestic animals for the appearance of new viral strains, especially strains that might adapt to infect humans. His research has become a critical tool for predicting and preparing for future influenza pandemics.

Dr. Robert G. Webster

Webster's work helps explain where, how and why avian influenza viruses evolve to become infectious to humans. In particular, he helped discover that live poultry markets in Hong Kong were the origin of the H5N1 influenza virus that spread directly from chickens to humans in 1997 and killed six of the 18 people it infected.

He also pursues research in the structure and function of influenza virus proteins. He was recently involved in creating a more efficient version of the reverse genetics technology that allows researchers to engineer influenza viruses with specific characteristics in order to study them. His research also includes work on new influenza vaccines and antiviral drugs.

Webster is also director of the U.S. Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization, a group that studies animal influenza viruses. A native of New Zealand, he received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in microbiology from Otago University in New Zealand. In 1962, he earned his Ph.D. from the Australian National University and spent the next 2 years as a Fulbright scholar working on influenza at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.

In 1989, he was admitted to the prestigious Royal Society of London in recognition of his contribution to influenza virus research. In 1998, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The author of more than 400 articles and reviews on the influenza virus, he has mentored many scientists who have also significantly contributed to our knowledge of influenza.

The Kinyoun Lecture honors Dr. Joseph Kinyoun, who, in 1887, founded the Laboratory of Hygiene from which NIH evolved. The lecture highlights research advances in the understanding of infection and immunity. All are invited to join Webster at a reception in the Lipsett lobby after the talk.


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