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Van Dijk receives $1.25 million grant to demystify the complexity of viral infection with algorithms

November 16, 2021
by Elisabeth Reitman

David van Dijk, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine and computer science, has received a five-year $1.25 million MIRA R35 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) for a new project, “An integrative, data-driven, and computational approach to uncovering dynamic mechanisms of early viral infection.”

The proposal aims to develop data-centered, computational approaches to identify distinct biomarkers of viral infection.

Technology holds great promise for the treatment of disease. To generate new therapies, scientists need to synthesize biological datasets to identify patterns in viral particles. Van Dijk stands at the forefront of a new technique known as single-cell RNA-sequencing or scRNA-seq, which delivers valuable information about the genes active in thousands of individual cells.

This new proposal expands on an earlier project, co-led by Van Dijk and Craig Wilen, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and of immunobiology, on single-cell analysis of SARS-CoV-2 infection dynamics to determine how the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects and alters healthy cells.

The NIGMS-funded study will enable the van Dijk lab to use biomedical machine learning algorithms to reveal the genetic determinants of viral infection — and improve our ability to predict and manage the progression of disease. Using these insights, the lab will focus on generating new hypothesis for a variety of disease backgrounds.

“This proposal promises to build approaches applicable across biological systems and processes, change our mechanistic understanding of viral infection, and, in the future, support therapeutic design,” said Van Dijk.

Submitted by Elisabeth Reitman on November 16, 2021