Something in the way they move—viruses, that is—fascinates Indiana University physical chemist Bogdan Dragnea. Dragnea calls it “cooperativity.” Luis Villarreal calls it “gangen.” But it’s clear from recent Zika and Ebola epidemics that understanding the path of a virus continues to be frontier science.
Dragnea, whose roots are in a small town in Romania near the Ukraine border, has been investigating the structural properties of viruses, and in recent years “[p]hysical principles in the self-assembly of immature HIV-1 particles“. He is now at work harnessing the powerful path, the motion of viruses—although he does not consider viruses live organisms.
The Dragnea Group is experimenting with using viruses as a scaffold to make nanoscopic light for laser-guided surgery—among other lab projects sponsored “through the years” by DOE, NSF, NIH, the US Army Research Office and Human Frontier Science Program.
Aside from nanophotonics and the physical principles that “govern” morphogenesis, research interests include bio-inspired materials and the thermodynamics of small systems.
Bogdan Dragnea’s latest scientific papers appear in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Soft Matter (self-assembly of convex particles on spherocylindrical template); Springer (in vitro assembly of virus shells around nanoparticles) and ACS Nano (virus coat protein assembly around metal nanorods).
He is Provost Professor in chemistry at Indiana University (but says he has “no administrative function”). In naming Dragnea Provost Professor, the university expressed the following:
“Dragnea is a leading researcher in physical virology whose work has helped place IU Bloomington at the forefront of the field. Part of the physical chemistry group in the Department of Chemistry, he conducts research on the assembly, disassembly and intracellular tracking of viruses in living cells.
He was among the first researchers to recognize that protein self-assembly used in nature to create virus particles could be exploited to create nanoparticle “cages” with well-defined structures and novel physical properties. He more recently developed a new research direction seeking to understand the assembly of immature HIV-1 particles; the research explores early events of HIV-1 budding and assembly, with the long-term goal of developing ways to inhibit growth of the virus.”