Faculty

  • Jim Chappell, MD, PhD

    Research Associate Professor

    My scientific background broadly encompass the pathogenesis, etiology, epidemiology, and prevention of infectious diseases, with primary emphasis on viral infections of the respiratory and enteric systems. I obtained my formal scientific training in virology with a concentration on the replication and pathogenesis of double-stranded RNA viruses using the mammalian reovirus model system. Subsequently, I studied structure-function relationships within reovirus replication factories that culminate in the production of infectious viral progeny and serve as post-entry determinants of viral host-cell tropism. The basic investigatory research was complemented by a suite of collaborative clinical studies addressing contemporary epidemiology, causation, pathobiology, and vaccine-mediated amelioration of acute respiratory illness and gastroenteritis, focusing particularly on rotavirus and influenza virus. My integrated interests in basic and applied virology recently found a home in the Denison Laboratory, where I am studying coronavirus replication strategies and potential targets for therapeutic intervention and immunoprophylaxis against emerging human coronavirus infections, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. This research combines fundamental insights into coronavirus-cell interactions gained through a model experimental system—murine  hepatitis virus—with basic, clinical, and translational knowledge of human coronaviruses to elucidate principles of viral disease pathogenesis, host adaptation, and epidemic spread that can be exploited toward prevention and management of unpredictable, yet inevitable, appearance of new zoonotic coronaviruses and other human viral pathogens surfacing from environmental reservoirs with increasing frequency.

  • Andrea Pruijssers, PhD

    Research Assistant Professor
    Pediatric Infectious Disease

    Andrea earned a Masters of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology from Wageningen University in her home country, The Netherlands, studying viral components needed for baculovirus infection of the caterpillar host. During her Master's she also spent some time in the US identifying drug targets for the treatment of cryptosporiosis. Andrea then joined the laboratory of Michael Strand at University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, where she characterized a family of virulence factors from the polydnavirus Microplitis demolitor Bracovirus and earned a PhD degree in Entomology. After graduation, she moved to Nashville, TN, to study reovirus neuropathogenesis in the laboratory of Terence Dermody at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. When the laboratory moved to another institution, Andrea joined the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research where she served as project manager for the Human Vaccines Project and contributed to the Drug Repurposing Program before returning to the bench. Her work in the Denison lab focuses on coronavirus antiviral therapies and mechanisms of drug resistance.

Research Staff

Students

  • Maria L Agostini

    PhD Candidate
    Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

    Maria graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. There, she worked in Dr. Nils Walter’s lab studying microRNAs using single molecule techniques. She joined the Vanderbilt IGP and subsequently, the Denison lab in 2015. Her work in the Denison lab focuses on coronavirus antiviral therapies.

  • Jennifer Gribble

    Graduate Student
    Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

    Jennifer graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in biochemistry.  As an undergraduate, she studied the epigenetics of metabolic disorders in Drosophila melanogaster at Iowa State under Dr. Kristen Johansen, the role of gut microbiotic diversity in malarial infection as a part of an NSF REU at the University of Tennessee, and inflammatory signaling in the bone marrow at Boston Children's Hospital though the Harvard Amgen Program.  She then joined the Vanderbilt IGP and subsequently the Denison lab in 2017.  Her work focuses on mechanisms of viral interference.