Dr. Ling is a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Virology at Baylor College of Medicine. He spent his graduate and postdoctoral careers investigating human herpesviruses Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). He continued his work on EBV and other animal gammaherpesviruses after moving to Baylor College of Medicine to start his own research program. His lab uses a variety of genetic, biochemical and omics approaches to discover and characterize new intrinsic and innate host responses to infection and to identify viral countermeasures against these responses to understand how these viruses establish long-term chronic infections in their hosts.
In 2010, following the death of 2-year old Mac from elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) at the Houston zoo, a collaboration was established between the zoo and Dr. Lings lab to address the devastating disease caused by this virus, especially in Asian elephant calves. Since that time, his laboratory has leveraged its experience and knowledge of human herpesviruses to combat the threat of EEHV in endangered Asian and African elephants and has emerged as a leading global expert in the field.
Dr. Ling’s lab has an overarching “Bench to Barn” approach to address the EEHV problem. The major activities include generating diagnostics, evaluating treatments, and generating an effective vaccine. His lab is responsible for generating qPCR tests to detect this family of viruses, which are being used world-wide. More recently his lab generated EEHV-specific serology tests, which have provided important insights into factors that may predict vulnerability of elephants for EEHV hemorrhagic disease. Through collaborations with the Baylor College of Medicine Human genome sequencing center, his lab determined the genomic sequences for almost all the EEHV varieties that are known to cause disease in elephants. He has now generated tools for development and evaluation of an EEHV vaccine, which he hopes to implement in the near future.
In addition to his research activities, Dr. Ling previously served as Secretary of the Epstein-Barr virus association and chaired the Microbial Pathogenesis and Cancer study section for the American Cancer Society. He is a member of the EEHV advisory group Steering committee, and is also an Editor for Plos Pathogens. He has trained several students and postdoctoral fellows who are making significant contributions to science in academia and industry.