Carolyn Stenbak receives grant to study viruses

June 1, 2011

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Biology Assistant Professor Carolyn Stenbak has received a $58,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for a project titled “Study of Packaging Determinants within the C-terminus of Foamy Virus Polymerase Protein.” With her students, Stenbak will study foamy viruses, an ancient group of non-pathogenic retroviruses that are also excellent potential candidates for use in gene therapy. The process of assembly is a critical step in the viral life cycle as well as for the development of gene therapy vectors. Stenbak’s project seeks to better understand how the polymerase protein gets packaged into newly assembling virus particles. Mutant viruses containing carefully selected engineered deletions spanning the C-terminus of the polymerase protein will be tested for their ability to be packaged and interact with the structural protein of the virus. 

Up to four Seattle University students will be supported by this two-year grant for summer research experience mentored by Stenbak. In addition to contributing directly to the field of foamy virus biology, this project will provide students a solid introduction to molecular biology techniques, tissue culture work and fluorescence microscopy, all of which are extremely valuable skills for young scientists continuing on in biology. Students will have opportunities to present their work at professional conferences and eventually may have the opportunity to coauthor in peer-reviewed publications on their work.