Alexandra Schaefer, PhD, is interested in virus-host interactions, viral pathogenesis, viral immunity and the role of host genetics in viral infection during coronavirus (SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2) and filovirus (EBOV and MARV) infection.
Dr. Schaefer's research focuses on identifying quantitative trait loci, genes and alleles that regulate emerging viral pathogenesis and immunity using outbred mouse and human models, and the role of these loci in pathogenesis. A major goal is to identify and study common genes and polymorphisms that regulate emerging virus disease severity across species. One important hypothesis is that phylogenetically clustered, high-risk emerging sarbecoviruses and filoviruses are regulated by common susceptibility loci, across mammalian species, including humans. In parallel, I am interested in developing outbred population-based model systems of human disease that can be used not only to model coronavirus evolution, pathogenic potential, and virulence in real-time, but also to develop and test antiviral therapeutics (direct-acting antiviral and monoclonal antibodies) and vaccine performance against coronaviruses with pandemic potential.