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David Knipe, Ph.D.

Keynote Title: Innate Immunity to Intrinsic Resistance to Epigenetic Silencing of Herpes Simplex Virus

David Knipe, Ph.D., the Higgins Professor Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the Department of Microbiology and the chair of the Graduate Program in Virology at Harvard Medical School, is a leading expert in the study of herpesviruses, in particular herpes simplex virus (HSV).  He received the Ph.D. degree in biology at MIT for his dissertation research with David Baltimore and Harvey Lodish that defined the pathway by which the vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein is synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum and delivered to the plasma membrane.  He conducted postdoctoral research with Bernard Roizman on molecular genetics of HSV.

Professor Knipe has defined the mechanisms by which HSV undergoes a lytic infection in epithelial cells and a latent infection in sensory neurons.  His research has defined the cell DNA sensors that detect and epigenetically silence incoming viral DNA and the viral proteins that reverse the silencing to allow lytic gene transcription.  He has defined the structure of latent viral chromatin and the role of viral gene products in promoting a form of chromatin that is poised to allow reactivation.  Professor Knipe has also developed a genital herpes vaccine candidate that was shown to be safe and immunogenic in phase I trials. 

Professor Knipe has served previously as the chair of the Graduate Program in Virology from 1982–91 and 2004–16; head of the Tridepartment Ph.D. program from 1991–94; vice chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department from 2009–11; and interim co-chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology from 2016–18.  He has been co-editor-in-chief of Fields Virology for five editions.  He is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology and the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the 2017 HMS Division of Medical Sciences Distinguished Faculty Award.