Robert Visalli, PhD

Visalli, RobertEducation

  • BS, Microbiology, Indiana University Bloomington
  • PhD, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Postdoctoral Study, Virology, Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine, Hershey Medical Center

Research Interest

The Visalli laboratory uses human and animal herpesviruses as model organisms to understand the mechanism of viral genome (DNA) processing and packaging (i.e. encapsidation). Dr. Visalli is interested in the function of proteins that form the encapsidation machinery (i.e. the terminase and portal proteins), portal structure, and the identification of antivirals that inhibit DNA encapsidation. Dr. Visalli was the lead scientist involved in the identification of novel encapsidation inhibitors and through studies concerning the highly conserved function and structure of portal proteins, seeks to define their mechanism of action. These studies may lead to new broad-spectrum therapeutic options to treat herpesvirus infections. Equally important is Dr. Visalli’s dedication to productive student research opportunities and hands on mentoring. Dr. Visalli is the current Chair of the American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program.

Selected Publications

  • Keil T, Liu D, Lloyd M, Coombs W, Moffat J, Visalli R.* (2020). DNA Encapsidation and Capsid Assembly Are Underexploited Antiviral Targets for the Treatment of Herpesviruses.  Front Microbiol. Aug 12;11:1862.
  • Visalli RJ*, Schwartz AM, Patel S, Visalli MA. (2019).  Identification of the Epstein Barr Virus portal. Virology. Mar; 529:152-159.
  • Kornfeind, E.M. and Visalli, R.J.* (2018). Human herpesvirus portal proteins:  structure, function and antiviral prospects. Rev Med Virol. May; 28(3), PMID: 29573302 DOI: 10.1002/rmv.1972.
  • Visalli, M.A., House, B.L., Lahrman, F.J., and Visalli, R.J.* (2015). Intermolecular Complementation between Two Varicella-Zoster Virus pORF30 Terminase Domains Essential for DNA Encapsidation. J Virol. 89(19):10010-22.
  • Visalli, M.A., House, B.L., Selariu, A., Zhu, H., and Visalli, R.J.* (2014). The Varicella-Zoster Virus Portal Protein is Essential for Cleavage and Packaging of Viral DNA. J. Virol. 88, 7973-7986.
  • Visalli, R.J.,* Cooper, D., Guo, M., Blakeney, S., Kowalski, J., Gangolli, S., Natuk, R.J. (2014).  Vaccination of mice with an HSV-2 UL24 mutant induces a protective anti-HSV-2 immune response in mice and guinea pigs.  Vaccine. 32(12), 1398-1406.
  • Howard, A.J., Sherman, D.M., Visalli, M.A., Burnside, D.M., Visalli, R.J.* (2012).  The Varicella-zoster Virus ORF54 gene product encodes the capsid portal protein, pORF54.  Virus Res.  167, 102-105.
  • Visalli, R.J.,* Knepper, J., Goshorn, B., Vanover, K., Burnside, D.M., Irven, K.L., McGauley, R., Visalli, M.  (2009).Characterization of the Varicella-zoster Virus ORF 25 gene product:  pORF25 interacts with multiple DNA encapsidation proteins.  Virus Res.  144, 58-64.
  • Visalli, R.J.,* Nicolosi, D.M., Irven, K.L., Goshorn, B., Khan, T., Visalli, M.A. (2007).  The Varicella-zoster virus DNA encapsidation genes:  Identification and characterization of the putative terminase subunits.  Virus Res. 129, 200-211.
  • Visalli, R.J.,* Fairhurst, J., Srinivas, S., Hu, W., Feld, B., DiGrandi, M., Curran, K., Ross, A., Bloom, J., van Zeijl, M., Jones, T.R., O-Connell, J., Cohen, J.I.  (2003). Identification of small molecule compounds that selectively inhibit Varicella-zoster virus replication.  J. Virol. 77, 2349-2358.
  • Visalli, R.J., Courtney, R.J., Meyers, C. (1997).  Infection and replication of HSV-1 in an organotypic epithelial culture system.  Virology. 230, 236-243.


  • 1R15AI152023-01A1, Targeting the Structurally Conserved Portal Protein as a Strategy to Develop a First-In-Class Broad-Spectrum Herpesvirus Antiviral Drug, PORT 1. National Institutes of Health (NIH) REAP Grant, (PI) 2020-2023
  • Navicent Health Foundation, Identification of Herpes simplex Virus Strains Naturally Resistant to Viral DNA Encapsidation Inhibitors.  (PI) 2016-2018
  • Acquisition of JEOL 2100-plus Transmission Electron Microscope. Georgia Research Alliance, (Co-PI) 2017
  • 2R15AI062713-02, Varicella-Zoster Virus DNA Encapsidation Proteins. National Institutes of Health (NIH) AREA Grant, (PI) 2010-2015
  • National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Non-clinical Evaluation Agreement to test novel compounds with antiviral activity against human herpesviruses in SCID-Hu mouse model, (PI) 2010-2012
  • 2R15AI062713-01, Varicella-Zoster Virus DNA Encapsidation Proteins. National Institutes of Health (NIH) AREA Grant, (PI) 2005-2009

Professional Involvement

  • Advances in Virology, Editorial/Reviewer
  • American Society for Microbiology
  • American Society for Virology
  • Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, Editorial/Reviewer
  • Antiviral Research, Editorial/Reviewer
  • AREA Application Reviews, National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review
  • Association of Medical School Microbiology and Immunology Chairs (AMSMIC)
  • Fellowship Program Grant Reviewer (Microbiology / Virology), American Society of Microbiology Undergraduate Research
  • F13 Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Fellowships, National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review
  • Immunology Special Emphasis Panel, National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review
  • Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Peer Review Panel, National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review
  • Journal of Virology and Antiviral Research, Editorial/Reviewer
  • Journal of Virological Methods, Editorial/Reviewer
  • Journal of Virology, Editorial/Reviewer
  • Oncolytic Virotherapy, Editorial/Reviewer
  • Panel of experts convened to evaluate potential antiviral smallpox drug candidates,  Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Special Emphasis Panel, National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review, NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (R13/U13)
  • Special Emphasis Panel (Topics in Virology), National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review,
  • Special Emphasis Panel (Viral Transport, Entry, and Immune Response), National Institutes of Health, Center for Scientific Review
  • Virology: Research and Treatment, Editorial/Reviewer
  • Virology, Editorial/Reviewer
  • Vaccine, Editorial/Reviewer

Contact Dr. Robert Visalli