Virologist Amr Aswad transfers from Oxford University to Freie Universität Berlin as an Einstein International Postdoctoral Fellow. There, he will engage with the research group of Benedikt Kaufer who is holding a Lichtenberg professorship for resistance to virus infections and vaccines funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. Kaufer's research group has a strong focus on investigating human herpesviruses. These pathogens, which many people harbor as slumbering infections, can cause serious illnesses, such as meningitis, shingles, or glandular fever, for example as a result of a weakened immune system.
Prof. Kaufer and his team are investigating human herpesvirus 6, which estimates that more than 95 percent of people are infected and causes, among other things, the three-day fever in infants. The researchers are interested in how the pathogen manages to incorporate its genetic material into the telomeres - the end caps of human chromosomes - and in which way the integrated virus genome is reactivated after long periods of rest and how it can be eliminated. Also, the virus has managed to infiltrate its genetic material into human germ cells, with the result that about one percent of the world's population carries the pathogen in every cell in the body. Amr Aswad will support the work of the Berlin scientists with new technologies. He developed sequencing and analysis methods that allow the incorporation of the virus genome into the telomeres and its cellular effects to be detected and investigated even more precisely than before. The junior scientist earned his doctorate from London's King's College and Imperial College at Oxford University and has been working there since 2015 as a Junior Research Fellow.