Raul Andino

Virologist Raul Andino has been awarded the Academy’s Beijerinck Virology Prize 2017.

Raul Andino has been awarded the prize for research that has expanded our knowledge of viruses across the board. For example, he has studied how viruses replicate, how they interact with their host’s cells, how they evolve and how they cause disease in their hosts. Much of Andino’s work focuses on poliovirus, a small RNA virus. Some of his research is geared to improving existing vaccines and making them safer, but Andino also uses the polio virus as a model to study how other enteroviruses replicate. Viruses in its family cause disease in humans in many different forms, from stomach flu and common cold to viral meningitis. 

Andino also studies RNA interference (RNAi), a process that can attack viral DNA within infected host cells. He has demonstrated that fungi, plants and even lower-order animals such as insects make use of RNAi. Andino also analyses how RNA viruses outwit their hosts thanks to their rapid evolution. Older theories assumed that evolution occasionally produces one effective virus that then infects new hosts. Andino’s work has helped us understand that it is not a single type of virus that is transmitted but a cluster of closely related viruses, known as a ‘quasispecies’. Each of these variants has specific properties, and they are only capable of infecting and causing disease in a new host if they act together. Knowledge of the evolution of a virus is also hugely important to understanding how viruses ‘escape’ from antiviral drugs. 

About the laureate

Raul Andino (1957) studied and received his PhD in Buenos Aires (Argentina). He has worked in the USA since 1986, first at MIT in Boston, then at Rockefeller University in New York, and now at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF), where he heads a group of 17 researchers in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.