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Don Gammon, PhD

Assistant Professor, University of Texas, Southwestern
W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research

Former RTI Lab: Postdoctoral Fellow, Mello Lab
Training Period: 2011 - 2017
Prior Academic Institution: University of Windsor
Awards: CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow

 Gammon Lab

Dr. Gammon received his B.S. degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Windsor (Windsor, Canada) and went on to obtain his Ph.D. in Virology at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada) in the laboratory of Dr. David Evans. While at the University of Alberta, Dr. Gammon’s research helped to elucidate the genetic and biochemical nature of poxvirus resistance to clinically-important acyclic nucleoside phosphonate drugs. In addition, he identified an unusual role for poxvirus DNA polymerase proofreading activity in catalyzing genetic recombination in virus-infected cells. His work also showed that poxviruses usurp host nucleotide biosynthetic machinery by forming novel “chimeric” ribonucleotide reductase enzymes that contain both viral and host proteins. This discovery led to Drs. Gammon and Evans obtaining a U.S. patent for the use of ribonucleotide reductase-deficient poxviruses in oncolytic virotherapy. Upon completion of his graduate research, Dr. Gammon pursued post-doctoral training in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Dr. Craig Mello, at the UMass Chan Medical School. In the Mello laboratory, he developed novel RNA virus-Lepidopteran (moth and butterfly) host systems to uncover both the immunity mechanisms used by eukaryotic organisms to restrict virus replication as well as the strategies viruses employ to counter such restrictions. These model systems arose from the observation that certain arboviruses undergo an abortive infection in Lepidopteran cells yet can replicate in these cells when host immunity is compromised during co-infection with other viruses, such as poxviruses. Using these model systems, his work has uncovered multiple conserved eukaryotic host factors that restrict arbovirus replication. These studies also identified a new family of highly conserved, microtubule-stabilizing virulence factors encoded by poxviruses that promote virus replication in Lepidopteran and vertebrate hosts. The Gammon laboratory uses a wide variety of cell culture-, virology-, molecular/cell biology, immunology, and biochemistry-related techniques to explore virus-host interplay. Using this multifaceted approach, along with newly-developed virus-host systems, Dr. Gammon’s team seeks to define the viral and host factors that ultimately determine virus host range and disease outcomes.