Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire holds a model of the Ebola virus. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The La Jolla Institute for Immunology announced Monday that Ebola researcher Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, will join its faculty in the spring.

Saphire, who is currently at Scripps Research, directs an international consortium analyzing antibody therapeutics and vaccine responses.

“We are thrilled to welcome Erica to La Jolla Institute. She is a truly exceptional scientist, who uses molecular insights to bring together scientists and policymakers for scientific advancement and social change,” said Mitchell Kronenberg, president and chief scientific officer.

“Having her here will accelerate the Institute’s efforts to solve humanity’s most pressing health challenges, and continue to elevate the remarkable science on the Torrey Pines Mesa,” he added.

Saphire studies the three-dimensional structures of viral proteins to understand, at the molecular level, why some viruses are so deadly.

Her team has determined the molecular structures of the Ebola, Sudan, Bundibugyo, Marburg, LCMV and Lassa viruses, how these viruses suppress immune function and where human antibodies can attach to defeat then.

“Immunology is taking center stage in science, uniting different disciplines to fight human disease,” said Saphire. “La Jolla Institute is top five in this area. The intellectual environment is outstanding, and I can’t wait to launch the next phase of my research program here.”

The La Jolla Institute for Immunology was founded in 1988 as an independent, nonprofit research organization with a goal of attaining life without disease.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.