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Dr Jason Roberts

Dr Jason Roberts

Dr Jason Roberts

(03) 9342 9610 | jason.roberts@vidrl.org.au

Position:
Head of the Electron Microscopy and Structural Virology Laboratory
Theme(s):
Viral Infectious Diseases, Emerging Infections
Discipline(s):
Discovery Research, Public Health
Unit(s):
Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL)
Lab Group(s):
Electron Microscopy and Structural Virology Laboratory

Dr Jason Roberts is the Senior Medical Scientist in charge of the Electron Microscopy and Structural Virology Laboratory at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL). Dr Roberts has previously served as Deputy Head of the National Enterovirus Reference Laboratory, and Technical Supervisor for the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Regional Reference Laboratory for Poliomyelitis based at VIDRL. Dr Roberts completed a PhD in bioinformatics and computational biophysics for enterovirus reference and research and is an Adjunct Principal Research Fellow at RMIT University.

  • Key Achievements
    • Dr Roberts is an internationally recognised virologist with over twenty years’ experience in diagnostic assay development, public health surveillance, electron microscopy, bioinformatics and computational biophysics. With previous work as a consultant virologist to the WHO polio eradication program he currently serves on the Australian National Certification Committee for the Eradication of Poliomyelitis. He is an award-winning scientific illustrator, with works appearing in scientific publications, textbooks and print media. He was the first person to create an in-silico atomistic simulation of a viral pathogen incorporating the encoding genome and was awarded the IDC’s ‘International Award for the Outstanding Application of High-Performance Computing for Business and Scientific Achievements’.

    Publications
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    Projects
    • Enterovirus detection and phylogenetics

      There are more than 100 human enteroviruses, including poliovirus, that cause a wide range of disease from febrile illness to hand foot and mouth disease, meningitis, myocarditis and paralysis, which may be fatal. The development of assays for the direct detection of enteroviruses in clinical specimens is of particular interest, not only for the WHO polio eradication program, but also public health officials to understand the epidemiology of enterovirus circulation. Further understanding is gained by analysing the genetic sequence to determine the pathways of enterovirus transmission. 

    • Molecular dynamics simulation of complete pathogens

      In 2011, Jason developed the first complete atomic model and supercomputer simulation of a pathogenic virus that infects humans, poliovirus. The model included the virus capsid surrounding the RNA genome and the procedure enabled the virus structure to be analysed in minute detail. The procedure was successfully applied to other non-enveloped viruses with icosahedral structure, such as rhinovirus, and enterovirus 71. Collaborative work for the simulation of influenza virus and papillomavirus has also been performed.

    • Investigation of antiviral resistance using molecular dynamics simulations

      The simulation of viruses can be used to understand the biological implication of structural variation. For example, the poliovirus simulation was used to investigate the impact of mutations on anti-viral resistance at the molecular level in collaboration with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, USA. Vaccine derived polioviruses are highly mutated forms of the virus that can cause outbreaks of paralytic polio. Studying the interaction between poliovirus and antivirals at the molecular level can lead to insights of how resistance occurs.

    • Scientific visualisation of pathogenic viruses

      The reconstruction and simulation of viruses in silico represent a great resource, not only for biological studies, but also to educate and stimulate interest in virology. Viruses can be depicted in eye-catching formations, highlighting specific structures while still being a biologically accurate model. The ability to explore the virus structure in 3-D adds another dimension, generating deeper understanding and appreciation of just what is a virus. Jason’s work has been used by the Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne, Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Fairfax media and the Australian Government.

    • Molecular Modelling and Scientific Visualisation of Pathogenic Viruses

      The reconstruction and simulation of viruses in silico represent a great resource, not only for biological studies, but also to educate and stimulate interest in virology. Viruses can be depicted in eye-catching formations, highlighting specific structures while still being a biologically accurate model. The ability to explore the virus structure in Virtual-Reality adds another dimension, generating deeper understanding and appreciation of just what is a virus. Jason’s work has been used by the Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne, Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Fairfax media and the Australian Government.

    • Rapid Determination of Virus Morphology and Cellular Ultrastructure

      To aid in the rapid examination of viral pathogens affecting humans, the development of new sample preparation methods is being investigated. Rapid specimen preparation methods such as microwave assisted fixation and embedding of cellular material can reduce preparation times by four-fold or more. In combination with traditional protocols, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy methods and advanced computational imaging hardware and software, a more complete examination of a pathogen of interest can be obtained in significantly less time than was previously thought possible.

    • Cryogenic Electron Microscopy Analysis of Human Viral Pathogens

      The Electron Microscopy and Structural Virology Laboratory is currently investigating the application of hybrid cryoEM techniques (single particle analysis and electron tomography), in the examination of viruses and virus-like particles for emerging and established pathogens that require high containment. The outcome of this research will assist in the direct examination and elucidation of the 3D structure of viral pathogens and assist in the generation of virus-like particles for use in diagnostic assays, vaccines and research reagents.

    Research Groups
    • Electron Microscopy and Structural Virology Laboratory

      The Electron Microscopy and Structural Virology Laboratory (EMSV) is engaged in the development and integration of advanced imaging and 3-dimensional reconstruction methods for the diagnosis, reference and research of infectious diseases.