Episode for February 3, 2022
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Dr. Rasmussen is a virologist studying host responses to infection by combining classical virology with modern systems biology approaches. Her research objectives are to identify host response signatures predictive of infection severity or disease outcome and host pathways to target drug development or repurposing. She is particularly interested in viruses that are highly pathogenic, newly emergent or likely to emerge because of climate change, land development, or ecological disruption. Currently she is focused on SARS-CoV-2, as well as other emerging pathogens with the potential to profoundly impact global health, such as Ebola virus, MERS-CoV, influenza virus, and hemorrhagic fever viruses. She works closely with other faculty and affiliates within the GHSS on the Viral Emergence Research Initiative (the VERENA Consortium), where she leads the core virology team.
Dr. Rasmussen has employed uses in vitro systems, animal models, and clinical specimens to study the relationship between host response and pathogenesis. She previously developed a model of Ebola virus disease in a genetically diverse panel of mice, the Collaborative Cross (CC), leveraging the diversity of CC mouse disease phenotypes to study genetic and transcriptomic factors underlying disease severity in humans. She has applied this model to developing predictive signatures of disease outcome and infection and identify novel drug targets. She is currently evaluating CC mouse models towards investigation of sex-specific host responses to viral infection, as well as to investigate disease presentation in other viruses that pose a major threat to global public health, including SARS-CoV-2. Ultimately, these host response profiles can be used for translational or biodefense applications, such as diagnosing infection, predicting disease severity, informing vaccine design, and developing or repurposing host-targeted drugs to impair virus replication or reverse pathology.
Dr. Rasmussen has published numerous original research articles in the peer-reviewed literature and serves on the editorial board of Cell Reports and mSphere. In addition to her scientific work, she believes that engagement of the public is essential to successful public health initiatives and is an active and outspoken science communicator. She has written for Forbes, Foreign Affairs, Slate, the Guardian, and Leapsmag, and appeared many times in media outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, ABC, NBC, CNN, CBC, and BBC. She is also an advocate for equitable and inclusive science, and serves on the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director’s Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment.