Scientist of the Month
Susana López Charretón
Dr. Susana López Charretón is a Mexican virologist specializing in the study of cellular and molecular biology of rotavirus infection. Her lines of research also focus on the functional genomics of the virus-host cell interaction, as well as aspects of epidemiology, diagnosis and viral metagenomics of emerging diseases.
López Charretón was born in Mexico City. She knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue biology so she followed her passion for Biology and enrolled into the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), where she completed her bachelor’s in basic biomedical research in 1980, followed by a masters in 1983 and a PhD in 1986.
While finishing her graduate degree, she spent a semester at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Tokyo in 1984. She won the Gabino Barreda Medal from UNAM in 1988 for her postdoctoral work. In 1991, she was awarded a Fogarty Fellowship, which she took to CalTech. In 2000, López became an International Research Scholar with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). HHMI is a philanthropic group that provides funding for biomedical researchers “with the potential for transformative impact.”
Throughout her career, López has made amazing advancements in our understanding of rotavirus. One of the most important findings from López Charretón research group is related to viral entry into a human body. Rotavirus is spread through the mouth and skin, but the virus leaves those cells alone and only infects and reproduces in cells in the small intestine. She has additionally studied how the rotavirus spreads in human populations, the immune response to it, and its replication cycle. This work has contributed to new diagnostic tests, isolation of new strains, and efforts towards a vaccine. Dr. López Charretón has also studied how the disease reproduces in the small intestine. She has published more than 80 papers in international journals and has given more than 200 presentations for government bodies, both in Mexico and internationally.
After finishing her doctorate, López Charretón became the principal investigator at the Institute of Biotechnology at UNAM, where she continues to work today. Since the beginning of 2020, her group has redirected part of its work to participate in the diagnostic and characterization efforts of various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.