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J. Maximilian Fels

As a Branco Weiss Fellow, Dr. J. Maximilian Fels will uncover how translation components encoded in giant viruses control the cellular protein synthesis machinery to shape host-pathogen interactions.



Academic Career

  • Postdoctoral researcher, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, USA 2021 – present
  • Postdoctoral researcher, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City, USA, 2020–2021
  • MSc and PhD in Biomedical Science, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City, USA, 2013–2019
  • BSc in Biomedical Science, Uppsala University, Sweden, 2008–2011

Major Awards

  • Dennis Shields Postdoctoral Research Prize, 2021


Branco Weiss Fellow Since

Research Category
Virology, Structural Biology

Research Location
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, USA
Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA

Organisms synthesize a broad range of proteins that have important functions in cells and drive biological phenotypes. The machinery responsible for making new proteins by decoding messenger RNAs is known as the ribosome and is a key component of cellular life. Viruses, in contrast, employ a parasitic approach and co-opt the ribosomes of their hosts to make viral proteins. The discovery of giant viruses which encode components of their own protein synthesis machinery upends this view and blurs the line between cellular and acellular biology. By studying the mechanisms of protein synthesis regulation during giant virus infection, we can expand our understanding of how new proteins are made and provide insights into how this fundamental cellular process evolved in the first place.
Details of Research
Dr. J. Maximilian Fels will leverage cryogenic electron microscopy to directly visualize how giant viruses interact with and modify the protein synthesis machinery of their hosts throughout the course of infection. Guided by these structural studies, he will determine how control of protein synthesis contributes to viral fitness through the targeted disruption of viral factors that interface with host ribosomes. Dr. Fels will measure the efficiency of viral and host protein synthesis under different infection conditions and establish how giant viruses regulate protein synthesis at the level of individual messenger RNAs. Through these observations of virus-host interactions at the molecular level, he will then be able to show how novel functions in protein synthesis regulation emerge.