Gillings School Directory

David R. Martinez, PhD

David Martinez, PhD poses for portraits on Monday, June 28, 2021 in Chapel Hill, N.C. (Liz Condo/Howard Hughes Medical Institute 2021)

David R. Martinez, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Ralph S. Baric's lab
Department of Epidemiology
Hanna H. Gray Fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

I am a viral immunologist with an expertise in immunity to viral pathogens of global importance including HIV, dengue, and SARS-CoV-2. As a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Ralph Baric's lab, I focused on studying host antibody responses to dengue virus and SARS-CoV-2. In my dengue studies, I discovered that the genotypic variation within the dengue virus serotype 2 can modulate neutralizing antibody responses from the host, which is paradigm shifting as antibody responses are thought to be uniform against dengue virus serotypes (Martinez et al., Cell Reports. 2020). This observation has important public health implications as dengue vaccines are designed with the assumption that serotypes are uniformly sensitive to neutralizing antibodies and my work shows otherwise. 

As a result of the explosive SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in Wuhan China, I immediately shifted my focus to studying host immune responses to coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. In addition to being involved in the pre-clinical development of the Johnson and Johnson and Moderna SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, as well as the Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca monoclonal antibody therapies, my postdoctoral work focused on characterizing neutralizing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination. I developed vaccination strategies that can protect against the greater subgenus Sarbecovirus, which includes SARS-related pre-emergent bat CoVs, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 variants (Martinez et al., Science. 2021). I also identified that sarbecoviruses share a highly conserved site on the receptor binding domain, which is a target of pansarbecovirus neutralizing and protective antibodies (Martinez et al., BioRxiv. 2021). Last, I recently showed that early but not late treatment with antivirals and antibody therapeutics is optimal to mitigate COVID-19, and that combination therapy of antivirals and highly potent neutralizing antibodies can extend the therapeutic window (Martinez et al., Cell Reports. 2021).


PhD, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University, 2018

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