Columbia Virologist-Pediatrician to Lead Nation’s Leading Virus Research Organization

Anne Moscona, MD, a pediatrician-scientist at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, will soon take the helm of the nation’s leading virology research organization, the American Society for Virology. She was recently elected to lead the organization as president beginning in July 2023; she will serve as president-elect from July 2022.

Dr. Anne Moscona
Anne Moscona is best known for her pioneering work on understanding how viruses enter cells. She is professor of pediatrics, physiology & cellular biophysics, and the Sherie L. Morrison Professor of Microbiology & Immunology. Photo courtesy of Anne Moscona.

“The role of ASV president is important because of the platform it provides for outreach, both within and beyond the virology research community,” Moscona says.

The COVID pandemic provided a stark illustration of the importance of public outreach, especially in the face of a flood of misinformation. During the pandemic, ASV helped organize public outreach projects, including a series of ASV-sponsored town halls and the “Ask a Virologist” program, which enabled schools and other organizations to interact with panels of top virologists on topics such as COVID-19 vaccines, antivirals, and other interventions.

As president, Moscona plans to continue emphasizing outreach to the broader public. “We need to focus on learning how to reach people from all backgrounds and people with different points of view. When it comes to outbreaks, we’re all in this together,” Moscona says.

She also plans to focus on increasing interchange among virologists in different disciplines as well as promote collaborations with fields outside of virology.

“The response to the COVID-19 pandemic showed the benefits that can come when virologists learn from and build on each other’s work, including work in different areas and related to different viruses” Moscona said. “It also underscored the importance of incorporating knowledge from fields outside of virology—and even outside the sciences—into how virologists think about and respond to pressing real-world problems.”

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Moscona served as ASV’s Medical Virology Councilor and has been involved in the ASV’s coordination of research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, bringing together virologists from different sub-disciplines to tackle critical projects. She is especially interested in the use of structural biology to reveal mechanisms of viral infection and has organized a symposium on this topic at the annual meeting of the organization this summer.

“There tends to be siloing within virology, as investigators are extremely focused on their own fields” says Moscona, “but in the last two years people broke down a lot of those boundaries and came together to address the pandemic.” She hopes to conserve that interdisciplinary momentum as virologists return to their regular work.

The pandemic also highlighted opportunities and challenges in improving diversity in scientific research. In the wake of an extraordinary global research and development effort that has yielded lifesaving vaccines and antivirals in record time, Moscona sees a tremendous opportunity to recruit a more diverse group of future virologists.

“The other day our lab hosted 20 middle and high school young women, ranging in age from 10 to 17, from a New York City school. After that experience, many of them wanted to come back and be virologists” Moscona says. “I think this is what we need to do a lot more of, to inspire young people to apply their talents to science.”