Dr Benjamin Neuman is based at the University of Reading's department of Biological Sciences and has studied coronaviruses for 17 years.
The primary goal of his laboratory is to uncover the mechanisms by which viruses are able to co-opt host cells and organisms. This mainly involves molecular-level investigation of nulcleic acid, enzymatic and structural properties of emerging pathogens related to human diseases including SARS (coronavirus), arenavirus haemorrhagic fevers (such as Argentine and Lassa) and influenza (orthomyxovirus).
For colonization to be successful, a virus requires the ability differentiate self (viral) components from the crowded background of the cell's interior. By studying the mechanisms by which viruses are able to invade host cells and transmit genetic information, we become able to design and test specific types of antiviral intervention. We are actively collaborating with biotechnology industry firms including AVI Biopharma to develop antisense nucleic acid compounds, peptides and small molecules to combat coronavirus and arenavirus infection.
A related interest is in understanding the roles of protein and nucleic acid structure and interaction during viral assembly. In collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute, we have begun a long-term project to investigate the structure of non-helical, non-icosahedral enveloped viriuses, and structural changes that occur during entry and exit from a cell. Electron cryomicroscopy and digital image provide a unique insight into the two- and three-dimensional architecture that enables virus particles to transmit genetic information through time and space.