Ayalew Mergia, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pathobiology

College of Veterinary Medicine

2004 Awardee

University of Florida pathobiology Professor Ayalew Mergia is out to change the negative stereotype of viruses.
Mergia studies the molecular virology of simian (monkey) foamy virus than may be able to aid in gene therapy.
“Like the HIV virus that causes AIDS in humans, foamy viruses belong to the group of viruses known as retroviruses,” Mergia says. “However, unlike HIV, the foamy virus is essentially harmless.”
Mergia says the virus can infect a wide variety of cells, and its positive properties (for carrying and expressing foreign genes) may make it useful for gene therapy.
“Ayalew clearly leads the way internationally in developing this promising gene therapy tool,” says Joseph DiPietro, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.
Mergia’s overall research goal-to develop novel antiviral therapy for immunodeficiency viruses-has notably produced positive results for kittens infected with feline immunodeficiency virus.