"An RNA-encoded virus assembly manual: mechanisms and consequences for viral evolution and therapy"

Based on a unique combination of inter-dependent bespoke modelling and experiment we have been able to demonstrate that multiple dispersed, sequence-specific interactions between (pre)genomic RNA and capsid protein promote assembly in a number of viruses infecting different hosts. In this talk, I will introduce different manifestations of this mechanism with emphasis on the examples of Human Parechovirus, Hepatitis B virus and HIV. Using the Parechoviruses as an example, I will demonstrate that characteristic features of this mechanism are shared across a viral genus, thus paving the way for broad-spectrum anti-viral therapy. Using models of viral evolution in the context of an infection, I will assess the merits of therapy directed against such features and highlight potential advantages over current therapies targeting virally-encoded enzymes. Finally, I will show that the assembly instruction manual can be isolated and repurposed for the production of VLPs, with potential for vaccination and gene delivery applications.