Understanding how viruses cause disease is important to the development of effective antiviral therapies and potential vaccines.

The long-term goal of the Wong laboratory is to understand how viruses cause disease. This is important in developing effective antiviral therapies and potential vaccines. The Wong lab is currently investigating two types of viruses: orthopoxviruses, which induce disease similar to smallpox; and herpesviruses, which can induce severe disease in individuals. Some of these viruses are very specific for their natural hosts, a factor that complicates the ability to study the mechanisms of the human viruses in an animal model. An alternative approach is to utilize animal models that harbor viruses that are closely related to the human virus. One animal model that has proven to be important in understanding the mechanisms of infectious disease and for vaccine development is the nonhuman primate.

By employing molecular, genetic and virological techniques, members of Dr. Wong’s laboratory examine how these viruses infect and replicate in cell culture and eventually how they cause illnesses in vivo. They have shown that experimental inoculation of normal monkeys with orthopoxviruses causes disease that is virtually identical to smallpox and have identified novel viral proteins utilizing proteomic analysis that may facilitate disease. Additionally, experimental infection of immunocompromised monkeys with simian herpesviruses results in disease manifestations that closely resemble those observed in humans infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Utilizing these techniques they are identifying the viral determinants that contribute to disease and are devising novel recombinant molecules to help prevent viral pathogenesis.


Dr. Wong received his PhD from Stanford University School of Medicine in 1987 and performed post-doctoral research at Stanford Medical School and Harvard University Medical School. He came to the center in 1991 as an Assistant Scientist in the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology, where he is now Interim Division Chief and Senior Scientist. Dr. Wong also has appointments in the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute where he is a Senior Scientist, and as a Full Professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Key Publications

Estep RD, Wong SW.  Rhesus macaque rhadinovirus-associated disease. (2013) Curr Opin Virol.  3(3):245-250.

Estep RD, Hansen SG, Rogers KS, Axthelm MK, Wong SW.  (2013) Genomic characterization of Japanese macaque rhadinovirus, a novel herpesvirus isolated from a nonhuman primate with a spontaneous inflammatory demyelinating disease.  J Virol. 87(1):512-523. 

Robinson BA, O'Connor MA, Li H, Engelmann F, Poland B, Grant R, DeFilippis V, Estep RD, Axthelm MK, Messaoudi I, Wong SW. (2012)  Viral interferon regulatory factors are critical for delay of the host immune response against rhesus macaque rhadinovirus infection.  J Virol. 86(5):2769-2779.

Axthelm MK, Bourdette DN, Marracci GH, Su W, Mullaney ET, Manoharan M, Kohama SG, Pollaro J, Witkowski E, Want P, Rooney WD, Sherman LS, Wong SW. (2011)  Japanese macaque encephalomyelitis:  A spontaneous multiple sclerosis-like disease in a nonhuman primate.  Ann Neurol. 70(3):362-373. 

Orzechowska BU, Powers MF, Sprague J, Li H, Yen B, Searles RP, Axthelm MK, Wong SW. (2008). Rhesus macaque rhadinovirus-associated non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: Animal model for KSHV-associated malignancies. Blood. 112:4227-4234.