Over the past thirty-eight years, Leibowitz’s research program has largely been concerned with utilizing biochemical and genetic approaches to studying both the replication and pathogenesis of coronavirus infections.
His research focus has been on mouse hepatitis virus (MHV), the prototypical coronavirus. MHV provides rodent models relevant to important human diseases: multiple sclerosis, acute fulminant hepatitis, and the severe pulmonary infections caused by SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and the newly emergent SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19.
A major focus of his research program over the last fifteen years has been to identify ribonucleic acid (RNA) structures that have an important role in coronavirus replication. Ultimately, through identifying and characterizing these cis-acting structures and the basis by which these structures interact with each other and with various trans-acting viral and host proteins to enable viral replication, Leibowitz hopes to identify specific targets for novel antivirals that can block replication by targeting these interactions.
Leibowitz’s laboratory, in collaboration with the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania, developed a mouse of SARS using the pneumotropic strain of MHV, MHV-1.
His research group is collaborating with Texas A&M faculty-researchers Paul De Figueiredo and Arum Han to apply a recently developed high-throughput microfluidic platform to identify and isolate B cells secreting neutralizing antibody to influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2.
Leibowitz earned a doctoral degree and a medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.