Curtis R. Brandt, PhD

Curtis R. Brandt, PhD

UW Medical Foundation Professor; Vice Chair of Research



Appointments and Honors

UW Medical Foundation Professor
Vice Chair of Research

Affiliate Appointments

Medical Microbiology and Immunology
Waisman Center
Paul Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center

Research Interests

Virology, cell and molecular biology, genetic mapping and recombinant techniques, gene therapy.

Research in the Brandt Laboratory focuses on four areas.

  • Injection of viral gene delivery vectors into the eye triggers an inflammatory response. We are trying to identify the trigger so we can block it. Currently, we are looking at several pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6. In addition, we are making viral delivery vectors for several labs on campus.
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes blinding keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) and we are interested in identifying genes in the virus that contribute to severe infection. Recently, we demonstrated that multiple genes are involved and have identified a number of novel mutations in several viral proteins. New sequencing technology allows us to rapidly sequence an entire HSV genome in about a week. This allows us to directly compare virulence characteristics in animal models with the sequence of several strains to identify disease-associated markers.
  • We have an active program of antiviral drug discovery and development and have worked with several companies. We have also identified novel antivirals. One was isolated from an edible mushroom that grows in Wisconsin. This novel protein appears to block several previously unknown steps in viral infection. The second group of antivirals is a series of peptides that block virus entry into cells. The peptides block HSV, Papillomavirus, HIV, and vaccinia virus. We have also shown one peptide blocks Influenza including bird flu strains. We are also using peptide-based strategies to study protein function. We are currently developing the peptides as novel microbicides to block sexually transmitted viral infections. The peptides are also being used to study the poorly-understood process of viral entry.
  • One of our antiviral peptides binds to sialic acid residues on HSV-1 envelope proteins that form the fusion/entry complex. Enzymatic removal of sialic from virus particles renders them non-infectious. We now know that this is because the formation of the fusion complex is triggered by desialylation. Thus sialic acid regulates fusion complex formation. We are working to identify how this occurs.

Research Highlights

Dr. Brandt is a world-renowned expert on ocular viral infections. He evaluated the therapeutic interventions available for vaccinia virus keratitis in partnership with Cangene Corporation, of Winnipeg and Manitoba, Canada. The vaccinia immunoglobin was available to the public, but with an FDA-ordered contraindication for Vaccinia virus induced keratitis. All available therapies were tested in an animal model and topical viroptic (antiviral) eye drops alone were found to be the most effective. In addition, Dr. Brandt found that including topical steroids with any therapeutic treatment resulted in a rebound in the viral infection and worsening keratitis. His research showed that passive immunization with the Vaccinia Immunoglobulin did not worsen keratitis and his work resulted in removal of the contraindication from the drug label. The project involved major partnerships not only with Cangene Corporation, but with the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UW-Madison, and investigators at UC-Davis.
Evaluation of therapeutic interventions for vaccinia virus keratitis


Postdoctoral Fellowship 1983-1986, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA

PhD 1984, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY

M Phil 1983, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY

MS 1977, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

BS 1975, Washington State University, Pullman, WA