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Research Fellows Directory

Reidun Twarock

Professor Reidun Twarock

Research Fellow


University of York

Research summary

Reidun Twarock has pioneered the area of Mathematical Virology, which focuses on the development and application of mathematical and computational approaches to address open problems in virology. She uses group, graph and tiling theory to identify structural constraints on virus structure and to investigate the structural transitions of viral capsids important for infection. Twarock also applies her novel mathematical tools in other areas of science, including the analysis of protein nanoparticles for vaccine design, fullerenes and materials with aperiodic order. In a second, related strand of activities she uses graph theoretical concepts to develop new bioinformatics techniques designed to identify RNA-protein contacts in viruses and to gain new insights into genome organization inside the viral capsids. This work critically underpins the recent discovery of the important roles of multiple dispersed sequence/secondary structure motifs, termed packaging signals, in single stranded RNA viruses, and has enabled their identification in a wide range of viruses. Twarock and her team developed the first models of packaging-signal mediated assembly, based on a combination of Gillespie-type algorithms and graph theory, that elucidate the mechanisms underpinning assembly efficiency and packaging specificity in these viruses, and illustrate the consequences of anti-viral interventions targeting packaging signals. Exploiting the link between packaging signals and viral fitness, Twarock and her team moreover investigate constraints on viral evolution, and they are developing new methods to anticipate the evolutionary response to a drug targeting packaging signals, with the ultimate goal of laying the foundation for a more stable form of anti-viral therapy.

Grants awarded

Scheme: Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2014 - Sep 2015

Value: £48,900.21

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