Saguna Verma, PhD


Professor and Graduate Program Co-Chair
Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology
John A. Burns School of Medicine
651 Ilalo Street, BSB 320
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Telephone: (808)-692-1662

Devi Ahilya University, Indore, India  B.S. 1985- Zoology, Chemistry,
Devi Ahilya University, Indore, India  M.S. 1988 – Biochemistry
Devi Ahilya University, Indore, India  Ph.D. 1994 –  Life Sciences

Research Focus

Study inflammatory and innate immune pathways that contribute to the pathogenesis of emerging RNA viruses of global concern (West Nile, Zika, and SARS-CoV-2 viruses) using different in vitro human 2D and 3D organoid models, in vivo mouse models and clinical samples

Personal Statement
Dr. Verma is a formally trained virologist and immunologist with expertise in the studies of RNA virus/host interactions and innate immunity.  Her  long-term research goal is to understand inflammatory pathways contributing to the neuropathogenesis related to flaviviruses to ultimately develop effective therapies to ameliorate the associated pathology. Her research uses both, in vitro and in vivo mouse models to delineate various innate immune signaling pathways that contribute to inflammation and neuronal death in flavivirus infections. The focus of the ongoing study in her lab is to analyze mechanisms associated with disruption of the blood-brain barrier and its consequence with respect to the entry of West Nile virus (WNV) in the mice brain. In addition, her lab also investigates the efficacy of anti-inflammatory drugs such as inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases and cyclooxygenase-2 signaling pathway as a potential therapeutic target to manage WNV encephalitis. Another area of her research is to understand the role of pathogen recognition receptor NLRC5 and its adapter molecule ASC in modulating innate and adaptive immune response to WNV. One of her recent projects involves characterizing the role of epigenetic modulation in innate immune responses to flaviviruses.

Ongoing Projects and Opportunities for Students to Participate

  • Delineating pathways that contribute to the persistence of Zika virus in the testis and modulate the testis microenvironment.
  • Understanding the mechanisms associated with testicular injury in COVID-19 patients using the human testis organoid model and K18-hACE2 mouse model.
  • Understanding the cell-type specific pathways involved in the injury of lung and heart caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection by using both K18-hACE2 mouse model and human airway 3D organ tissue equivalent.
  • Evaluating the association between SARS-CoV-2 antigens circulating in the plasma of SARS-CoV-2 infected persons and COVID-19 disease severity.