Curtis R. Brandt, PhD

Curtis R. Brandt, PhD

UW Medical Foundation Professor; Vice Chair of Research

  • Ocular infections, gene delivery, retinal gene therapy and immunology, cornea, CORE lab
  • Genetic drivers of virulence in ocular viral infection
  • Innate/intrinsic immune responses to ocular gene delivery vectors
  • Gene therapy for ocular diseases
  • Antimicrobial drug discovery and development


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


UW Medical Foundation Professor; Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences Vice Chair of Research

Affiliate Appointment(s):

Medical Microbiology and Immunology Waisman Center Paul Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center


  • BS 1975, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
  • MS 1977, Washington State University, Pullman, WA
  • M Phil 1983, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, NY, NY
  • PhD 1984, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, NY, NY


Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1983-86, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA

 visit THE BRANDT LAB site


Research in my laboratory focuses on four areas.

Gene Delivery:

  • 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.