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Professor Barsanjit Mazumder Receives NIH R21 Award to Study SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Infection Processes

ResearchDr. Barsanjit Mazumder, a professor in the Department of Biological Geological and Environmental Sciences (BGES) and member of the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease (GRHD), has been awarded an R21 research grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). R21 awards focus on high risk/high reward exploratory research projects.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The lethal respiratory disease became a pandemic because of its high infectivity and continuous evolution of new variants through its rapid mutability. The ability of this virus to efficiently infect human cells relies upon how efficiently this virus can sense and transduce the signals from host cells. However, the mechanisms of this process are unknown.

Recently, work from Dr. Mazumder's laboratory discovered a novel communication route between this virus and human lung cells. This work showed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses a part of its RNA sequence to communicate with the signal generated by human lung cells. His research team found that when the spike protein of the virus contacts the ACE2 receptor on the surface of the lung cell leads to a signal controlling the generation of this virus inside the cells. This newly awarded grant will facilitate the unveiling of crucial insights into the virological consequences of this mechanism. In the future, this knowledge will be used in the development of the next generation of mRNA vaccines and targeted therapeutic strategies not only for this virus but also for other respiratory viruses with the potential to cause a pandemic in the future.

Dr. Abhijit Basu, a senior postdoctoral scientist who worked in the laboratory of Dr. Mazumder played a major role in the work that led to this grant. Dr. Joseph Luna (Biochemistry) and Dr. Jonathan Karn (Microbiology) from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Dr. Anton Komar, BGES professor and Director GRHD at Cleveland State University, will collaborate on the project.