Susan Weiss, PhD, is Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Microbiology and Co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). She earned her BA in Biology from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA and her PhD in Microbiology from Harvard University working on paramyxoviruses. She carried out postdoctoral research training working with retroviruses at the University of California, San Francisco. She was appointed as an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1980, where she established her lab to investigate coronaviruses. She previously served as Associate Dean and Director of the Office of Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs (2010-2019). She is a fellow and currently a Governor of the American Academy of Microbiology, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 2023 elected to National Academy of Sciences. She received the Brandeis University Alumni Achievement award.

Research Interests

Dr Weiss’ research has focused on many aspects of coronavirus replication and pathogenesis, aimed at defining the viral and host determinants of pathogenesis including organ tropism and virulence. This work includes murine coronavirus (MHV) infection of its natural host, used to model encephalitis and demyelinating disease as well as hepatitis and severe acute respiratory disease. More recent studies involve investigation of human coronavirus interactions with the host innate immune responses. The focus has been on activation and antagonism of double-stranded RNA induced antiviral pathways, a crucial determinant of coronavirus replication, spread and pathogenesis. A long-term goal is to identify similarities and differences among the lethal and common cold coronaviruses in order to understand the mechanisms underlying the very different pathogenic outcomes. Other research interests include the antiviral oligoadenylate-ribonuclease L pathway, flavivirus-host interactions and pathogenic effects of host endogenous dsRNA.

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Primary Section

Section 44: Microbial Biology