Marc Johnson began his research career studying a rabies-like virus in fish. “Working with fish viruses is really cool research,” he notes, but there are just not a lot of people doing it,” and that sense of isolation was eventually too much. In search of collaboration and community, Johnson switched from fish viruses to HIV. Since then, the assistant professor in MU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology has dedicated his research efforts to the study of these related humans viruses. He and his collaborators have made great progress in understanding how the HIV virus works in order to develop new therapeutics to combat the disease.
Johnson’s lab research is largely concentrated on the study of the HIV retrovirus. He says his work can be used on three levels. First, he hopes that by learning how the HIV virus works, he will be able to develop new drugs to treat and cure the disease. Second, he hopes that a thorough understanding of the virus will lead to the development of further gene therapy. Third, he hopes that an understanding of virus structure in general will lead to a better understanding of how human cells work. “Just about everything we know about modern molecular biology came from studying viruses,” Johnson says.