Mā te kimi ka kite; Visualising native viruses of Aotearoa whānui

Māori Kia Niwha Leader Fellow
DR ALICE-ROZA ERUERA

Alice Eruera v2
Principal Investigator
Dr Alice-Roza Eruera (Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu, Ngāti Ruanui)
University of Otago (Otakou Whakaihu Waka)
Public Contact
Te Niwha
teniwhacomms@otago.ac.nz
Project Timeframe/Status
-
In Process

Whakarāpopoto Rangahau Summary of Research

Priority Theme: Prevention
Discipline: Virology

Native animals in Aotearoa New Zealand are hosts to viruses not found anywhere else in the world. Little is known about these viruses, such as their potential to cause disease or spread to other animals or humans.

AI algorithms such as AlphaFold are used internationally to predict virus components. But they do not have enough reference models to produce reliable, confident predictions on highly divergent viruses such as those native to Aotearoa. Future native New Zealand viruses yet to be discovered will likely face the same issues.

As part of the Kia Niwha Leader Fellowship, Dr Alice-Roza Eruera will undertake a one-year project where she will create 3D structures of native New Zealand viruses and make them freely available as reference models to guide AI tools. Analysis of these structures will give information about viral evolution and could be used to determine the risk of spillover from animals to humans by comparing our native viral structures to known pathogens. 

He Kōtaha Kairangahau Researcher Profile

Dr Alice-Roza Eruera (Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu, Ngāti Ruanui)
Principal Investigator
University of Otago (Otakou Whakaihu Waka)

Dr Alice-Roza Eruera (Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu, Ngāti Ruanui) is a cryo-electron microscopist who specializes in modelling the 3D structures of viruses and their proteins. These 3D structural models are built computationally using data collected in high-end electron microscopes. These atomic models can inform how viruses' function, infect the host cell, and evolve over time. Dr Eruera has worked with viruses that infect animals, people and bacteria, including human norovirus, SARS-related coronaviruses, animal hepeviruses, and bacteriophages. Of these, she has solved a wide range of different physical structures. As a postdoctoral fellow, she has now turned her attention to a small number of native viruses from Aotearoa New Zealand which she seeks to solve structures for. These 3D structures should be highly informative about these native viruses, which have evolved in complete isolation for a very long time and are highly distinct and unique to this whenua. In addition to structural virology, Dr Eruera also an avid language learner, passionate about Te Ao Māori, and is an amateur scientific illustrator. 

Project Status

In Process

Media Contact 

Te Niwha
teniwhacomms@otago.ac.nz