Robert de Vries is a principal investigator in the Department of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery; he is an expert in the receptor binding specificity of influenza A virus as it relates to pathogenicity and transmissibility of these viruses in humans and other host species. The lab has several expression systems running for viral lectins and glycosyltransferases. These are used in specificity assays and chemo-enzymatic synthesis of glycans. The primary goal of his group is to get a better mechanistic understanding of how different influenza A virus hemagglutinins bind to sialic acid containing receptors. Dr. de Vries performed his PhD research in the virology department at the faculty of veterinary medicine, Utrecht University (The Netherlands). Here he set up expression systems for hemagglutinins and neuraminidases of influenza A virus. For his post-doctoral project at the Scripps Research Institute (USA) he was awarded a Rubicon grant (NWO). During this period he solved the fine specificity of human influenza A viruses, found key mutations in zoonotic viruses, and explained these specificities at the molecular level using X-ray structures in collaboration with the group of Ian Wilson and glycan modeling in collaboration with Rob Woods (CCRC Athens GA USA). In 2014 he joined the Department of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, Utrecht University (The Netherlands) for which he received a NWO VENI grant. In 2018 Robb was awarded an ERC-starting grant to expand his work, on how influenza viruses interact with glycans, with the aim to make better vaccines.
Check out our latest paper on how SARS-CoV-2 uses sialylated glycolipids to infect cells!
With a news and views in Nature Chemical Biology
Our paper on the receptor specificity of an influenza B virus from a spiney eel was discussed in this week of virology
Our paper on N-glycolylneuraminc acid discussed in This Week in Virology
UU News article about the awarded ERC-Starting Grant Sugar enable
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Research in the de Vries group is dedicated to understanding the receptor usage of influenza A viruses. Currently aimed to solve specificity towards blood group antigens and ancient receptors. Robert's research interest expands to other glycan-binding viruses including rotaviruses and avian coronaviruses. To define receptor specificity several techniques are employed such as tissue and glycan array analyses. For the creation of these glycan arrays and other biologically relevant glycans, several glycosyltransferases are created for chemo-enzymatic synthesis. Combining chemical and enzymatic synthesis routes, different glycomimetics are made to solve viral and immunological key questions.