Candidate. My career goal is to improve the health of children with congenital viral infections by defin- ing the relationship between the fetomaternal immune response and outcomes of congenital infection. My short-term objective is to refine and add to my skills as an independent investigator and begin my independent research career as a junior faculty member at the University of Wisconsin on an acceler- ated trajectory with the protected time and resources to develop my research program. The education linked to this proposal is in the areas of fetomaternal immunology, bioinformatics and fetal development, which will enable me to complement my prior training in molecular virology and develop an innovative approach to the study of the immune response to congenital Zika virus infection. Research Project. Infection with Zika virus (ZIKV) during pregnancy is associated with congenital in- fection and the development of birth defects. Maternal infection results in transmission to the fetus and the virus disseminates throughout fetal tissues resulting in birth defects. Some infants have severe birth defects and others are either not affected or only mildly affected. Determining the relationship between the fetomaternal immune response and these different infection phenotypes is critical for defining the fetomaternal immune response that results in limited fetal harm. Characterization of this immune re- sponse will provide targets for immunotherapy development, which is necessary to reduce the mortality and morbidity from congenital ZIKV infection. Career Development Plan. My proposed mentoring and training activities will focus on (1) attaining expertise in fetomaternal immunology, bioinformatics and fetal/infant development through mentoring, hands-on laboratory work and coursework; (2) developing leadership skills to pursue investigations in an independent laboratory; (3) presenting and publishing data; and (4) continuing and expanding pro- fessional collaborations. My research will be closely coordinated with my training activities and will build toward a successful R01 application in the fourth year of this award. Research Environment. I am well supported within the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin with independent laboratory space. I will continue to benefit from the outstanding collabora- tive biological sciences research infrastructure at our institution and nonhuman primate animal facilities at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can result in congenital infection and the development of birth defects, with some infants developing significant birth defects and other infants not developing any measurable birth defects. Determining the relationship between the fetomaternal immune response and these different infection phenotypes is critical to defining the immune response which limits fetal harm and can be used to design effective immunotherapies. The purpose of this proposal is to define the re- lationship between the antibody response during congenital ZIKV infection and outcomes of infection.