Jason McLellan, molecular bioscience associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was the 2020 recipient of the William Prusoff Memorial Award from the International Society for Antiviral Research, which honors a young scientist who has shown excellence in antiviral research and promise for future contributions to the field.
McLellan’s research focuses on the structure of certain proteins as infections progress, which informs the development of medicine used to treat disease. One of his research interests focuses on human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is a virus causing severe lower respiratory tract infections, particularly in young children and the elderly. A certain part of RSV, called the F protein, changes shape during an infection. If the immune system encounters the F protein in this altered shape, the antibodies it produces are less effective than when the F protein is in its pre-infection shape. Using a structure-based approach, McLellan engineered the F protein to take away its shapeshifting ability and in turn allow the body to produce more effective antibodies in response.
McLellan graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in chemistry, and earned his Ph.D. from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. He joined the biochemistry department at Dartmouth Medical School, and in 2018 moved his lab to the University of Texas at Austin, where he became an associate professor in the department of molecular biosciences.