Kevin McCarthy, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
  • Member, Center for Vaccine Research

Education & Training

  • PhD in Virology, Harvard University, 2014

Research Interests

The McCarthy laboratory studies the co-evolution of viruses and their hosts, using genetic, molecular, biochemical, and structural approaches. Among the proteins that form an enveloped virus, the glycoproteins often evolve most rapidly. They drive cell entry and in doing so profoundly influence viral tropism. Viral glycoproteins evolve to evade host antibody responses, adapt to utilize new receptor molecules and transmit between species. When captured by host genomes, they have been adapted to perform host functions. Their plasticity hinders vaccine development, facilitates viral emergence, and can highlight unique biology. In a sense, they have evolved to evolve.  

B cells rearrange their DNA to produce novel B cell receptors. They then evolve these receptors to bind antigens with greater affinity, a processed termed affinity maturation, and secrete those receptors as antibodies. B cells receptors, like viruses, have evolved to evolve. 

Using the glycoproteins from influenza (hemagglutinin), SARS-CoV-2 (spike) and sometimes endogenous retrovirus (envelopes) we are currently focused on:

1. Understanding how the antibody response to viral glycoproteins evolves
2. Determining how immune pressure from antibodies drives viral evolution
3. Revealing how viral glycoproteins have contributed to host evolution