Chandran ’95 Leads Research in Blocking Deadly Ebola Virus


Kartik Chandran ’95 reviews data with a colleague. Photo courtesy of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Led by Kartik Chandran ’95, a team of researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine managed to break open Ebola’s previously elusive mechanism for entering a cell. “It’s a first step toward a therapeutic,” said Chandran in Newsweek (“Race for a Cure,” Aug. 6, 2012). “We have a bona fide target.”

The discovery was described in two articles by Chandran and his colleagues in Nature and publicized by Reuters and other media. His lab received a $4.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health in support of the research.

Chandran, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, hopes to develop an anti-Ebola therapeutic within five to six years. He is working with a half-dozen scientists in other countries, including Uganda.

Identified in Africa in 1976, Ebola virus causes severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and other primates, with a fatality rate of nearly 90 percent. It is unknown how the virus spreads, and no vaccines or drugs are available to fight the infection. Nearly a decade ago, important discoveries about the virus began to emerge. For Chandran, who was deciding on a career specialty, the timing was perfect. “Scientists had just figured out how to work with this dangerous virus without having to wear a spacesuit,” he says.

Growing up in India, he dreamed of going to America to pursue a career as a research scientist. “Lafayette took a chance on a 17-year-old from India, and that made everything possible for me,” says Chandran, a biochemistry graduate who went on to earn a doctorate in biochemistry at University of Wisconsin.

He says his participation in EXCEL Scholar research was invaluable for his later success and notes two professors who were particularly influential— David Husic, Larkin Professor and head of chemistry, and Valerie Walters, former associate professor of chemistry.

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