Rachel L. Roper

Rachel L. Roper

Rachel L. Roper
Associate Professor
Microbiology & Immunology
Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women
Brody School of Medicine
East Carolina University
600 Moye Blvd, Rm 5E106A mailstop 629
Greenville, NC 27834
Office 252-744-2708
FAX 252-744-3104
E-mail id: [email protected]


iam Doctor Rachel L. Roper working as Associate Professor in Microbiology & Immunology in  East Carolina University. My research laboratory focuses on viral pathogens, mechanisms of virulence (how viruses cause disease) and how viruses can be designed to create vaccines against numerous diseases, including cancer. Currently we are focusing research on poxviruses including vaccinia virus, mousepox, and raccoonpox virus.The vaccinia virus poxvirus vaccine is administered to all U.S. military personnel for protection against smallpox and monkeypox viruses, Category A biological disease agents which have been identified by the US Government as primary bioterrorism/biowarfare threats. Recombinant vaccinia is also widely used as the wildlife rabies vaccine in the US. However, use of these vaccines is limited by the virulence of these poxvirus vectors in humans. To study how viruses cause disease and to create safer vaccines, we have identified previously uncharacterized virulence genes (such as A35) that act by inhibiting the mammalian immune system, thus allowing the viruses to replicate and spread prior to control by the immune response. We are using this information to design safer and more effective vaccines for pathogens and for cancer treatment. We have also explored other potential poxvirus vaccine vectors including raccoonpox virus. We sequenced and analyzed the raccooonpox virus genome, the first North American poxvirus sequenced, and showed that it forms a new evolutionary branch distinct from Orthopoxviruses. Further, we showed that it is extremely attenuated even in immunocompromised and pregnant mammals, suggesting it will be a very safe vaccine vector (it is currently approved as a rabies vaccine). One aspect of the lab continues to be analysis of viral genomes, including poxvirus, torovirus, and coronavirus (e.g. SARS). We have used bioinformatics analysis to uncover conserved genes with unusual and interesting properties, such as immunoregulatory genes. We are currently exploring the biochemical mechanisms of action of these immunoregulatory genes and proteins. If we can discover how these proteins act, it may be possible to mimic them in order to control deleterious immune responses in human and animal organ transplantation or autoimmunity.

Research Interest

viral pathogens, mechanisms of virulencecreate vaccines against numerous diseases, cancer, potential poxvirus vaccine vectors including raccoonpox virus,organ transplantation or autoimmunity etc..



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