Storch, PhD, distinguished professor of nutritional sciences, Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “While we mostly do basic research, because of the disease relevance, my lab is most known for its work on NPC and LINCL,” says Dr. Lobel. “ V Monica Roth, PhD iruses are amazing,” says Dr. Roth. She’s been studying retroviruses her entire career. “The virus is really a nanoparticle,” she explains. “You can create a nanoparticle in a test tube or see what particles exist in nature and modify them—that’s the overarching theme in my lab.” Dr. Roth came to Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in 1988 after she completed her postdoctoral work at Columbia University in retroviruses—RNA viruses that convert into double-stranded DNA through the process of reverse transcription, integrating into the DNA of the host. The process can be either harmful or beneficial. For example, if you were trying to introduce a gene for therapy, then it’s a benefit, since it stays in the DNA of the cell. Dr. Roth’s research involves manipulating viruses to leverage their strength and then using them for the benefit of biomedicine. “We try to understand how the virus works to excerpt out 28 Robert Wood Johnson I MEDICINE the strong points and eliminate problems, using it as a delivery mechanism,” says Dr. Roth. One of the long-standing projects in her lab is viral entry. “The virus has a protein on the outside called an envelope protein, by which it gains entry into the cell through binding to a host receptor,” says Dr. Roth. Her research could help determine how to enter a cancer cell that has a surface marker expressed at a high level, then get a virus to find that receptor and deliver a therapy to those cells. Virus particles for gene delivery enter cells and integrate, and they can express at a high level. “We know that a leukemia virus was identified in mice because it integrates in front of genes that could then express and transform the cell,” she explains. The virus itself doesn’t carry an oncogene, but if you happen to integrate in front of one, you could give a growth advantage to that cell. Dr. Roth’s lab is studying how the virus chooses where to integrate. “It turns out that around 20 percent of the time, the virus integrates within a promoter region,” she says. “If you integrate in that promoter region, you have a greater chance of turning on that gene.” Once there’s an understanding of that mechanism, you can change it. By knowing how to block the interaction with a host protein that drives the site of integration, this interaction can be eliminated and thus the virus could be retargeted. Dr. Roth’s lab is also looking at viruses as nanoparticles— using them to deliver a toxic protein to cells to kill them— which has obvious implications for cancer treatment. Her most recent project is related to a protein called p12. “Different viruses have different properties, and some viruses can only infect dividing cells,” says Dr. Roth. Dividing cells must go through mitosis, during which the nuclear envelope disappears and the virus gains access to the host DNA, carrying a protein with it that keeps the virus attached to the mitotic chromosomes. Her project is investigating how that works, trying to understand what the protein is binding to and how that influences integration. “The point is,” says Dr. Roth, “viral proteins have divergent functions depending on if the virus is trying to exit or enter a cell.” Her lab combines molecular biology, mutational analysis, and tissue culture studies with structural studies to examine specific aspects of the viral life cycle. The recognition by AAAS is “humbling,” says Dr. Roth. “You spend an entire life doing research. To be recognized by this organization for contributions to science is a huge honor.” Formed in 1848, AAAS is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people. The medical school feels privileged to call these three honorees faculty. M