Schnell Research


  • Chair, Department of Microbiology & Immunology
  • Dr. V. Watson Pugh & Frances Plimpton Pugh Professor in Microbiology & Immunology
Position: Sidney Kimmel Medical College

233 South Tenth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Contact Number(s):

While viruses are the source of many infectious diseases, they can also be harnessed to combat disease. For example, viral vectors are excellent tools for producing vaccines against infectious diseases. The major goal of our lab is to develop such vaccines based on highly attenuated rabies and measles viruses. Several vaccines are in preclinical development with some approaching clinical testing.

In addition to producing vaccines, we are pursuing a detailed understanding of the biochemistry, molecular biology and immunology of the rabies virus and its interaction with the infected host. We also use the rabies virus as a tool for studying neuroanatomy.

Research Projects

Vaccines against emerging viral diseases

A) Rhabdovirus-based vectors as vaccines against other infectious diseases.

  • Rabies virus (RABV)-based vaccines are promising as both live and killed vaccines against infectious disease. This is based on the finding that RABV vectors are highly immunogenic and combine a necessary vaccine with limited financial resources for development (such as several hemorrhagic fever viruses) with a safe, approved, and financially practical vaccine (rabies).
  • Using different molecular and immunological approaches, we perform detailed studies of highly attenuated RABV expressing and incorporating immunogenic proteins of emerging infectious diseases. Most advanced is the development of our filovirus (e.g. Ebola Virus (EBOV), Sudan virus (SUDV) and Marburg virus (MARV)) vaccine. In the pre-clinical phase of development are novel vaccines against Hendra virus, Nipah virus, Lassa virus, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Zika virus.
  • The goal is the development of this vaccine platform not only for human use but also to immunize animals to break the transmission cycle of these zoonotic diseases. 
  • Development of safer and more potent vaccines for wildlife and human rabies.
  • Development of novel vaccines against lyssaviruses (rabies-related viruses) from which the current rabies vaccine does not protect.

B) Measles-based vectors as vaccines against other infectious diseases.

  • Recently, the laboratory has begun utilizing a novel measles virus-based vaccine vector. The measles vector protects not only against measles but can also be designed to protect against other infectious diseases. Measles vaccines have been safely delivered to more than 100 million children, it is such a vaccine could have a great impact. Most advanced in our laboratory is the development of a save measles virus vaccine with dual efficacy against Zika virus and measles.

Pathogenicity & Neurovirology

We are interested in a detailed understanding of the biochemistry, molecular biology and immunology of rabies virus and its interaction with the infected host. We also use rabies virus as a tool for neuroanatomy

  • Innate immunity (e.g. the interferon sensitive Ifit genes) and their function for RABV virus neurotropism and neuroinvasiveness
  • Immune responses to RABV in the infected host (innate and adaptive)
  • Antiviral drugs against lyssaviruses

Development of transneuronal tracing with rabies virus