Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine (2012)
  • PhD, Imperial College London, Immunology (2012)
  • Master of Science, University Of Cape Town (2008)
  • Bachelor of Science, University Of Cape Town (2005)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • Parallel shRNA and CRISPR-Cas9 screens enable antiviral drug target identification NATURE CHEMICAL BIOLOGY Deans, R. M., Morgens, D. W., Okesli, A., Pillay, S., Horlbeck, M. A., Kampmann, M., Gilbert, L. A., Li, A., Mateo, R., Smith, M., Glenn, J. S., Carette, J. E., Khosla, C., Bassik, M. C. 2016; 12 (5): 361-?


    Broad-spectrum antiviral drugs targeting host processes could potentially treat a wide range of viruses while reducing the likelihood of emergent resistance. Despite great promise as therapeutics, such drugs remain largely elusive. Here we used parallel genome-wide high-coverage short hairpin RNA (shRNA) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 screens to identify the cellular target and mechanism of action of GSK983, a potent broad-spectrum antiviral with unexplained cytotoxicity. We found that GSK983 blocked cell proliferation and dengue virus replication by inhibiting the pyrimidine biosynthesis enzyme dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH). Guided by mechanistic insights from both genomic screens, we found that exogenous deoxycytidine markedly reduced GSK983 cytotoxicity but not antiviral activity, providing an attractive new approach to improve the therapeutic window of DHODH inhibitors against RNA viruses. Our results highlight the distinct advantages and limitations of each screening method for identifying drug targets, and demonstrate the utility of parallel knockdown and knockout screens for comprehensive probing of drug activity.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/NCHEMBIO.2050

    View details for Web of Science ID 000374322800011

    View details for PubMedID 27018887

  • An essential receptor for adeno-associated virus infection. Nature Pillay, S., Meyer, N. L., Puschnik, A. S., Davulcu, O., Diep, J., Ishikawa, Y., Jae, L. T., Wosen, J. E., Nagamine, C. M., Chapman, M. S., Carette, J. E. 2016; 530 (7588): 108-112


    Adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are currently the leading candidates for virus-based gene therapies because of their broad tissue tropism, non-pathogenic nature and low immunogenicity. They have been successfully used in clinical trials to treat hereditary diseases such as haemophilia B (ref. 2), and have been approved for treatment of lipoprotein lipase deficiency in Europe. Considerable efforts have been made to engineer AAV variants with novel and biomedically valuable cell tropisms to allow efficacious systemic administration, yet basic aspects of AAV cellular entry are still poorly understood. In particular, the protein receptor(s) required for AAV entry after cell attachment remains unknown. Here we use an unbiased genetic screen to identify proteins essential for AAV serotype 2 (AAV2) infection in a haploid human cell line. The most significantly enriched gene of the screen encodes a previously uncharacterized type I transmembrane protein, KIAA0319L (denoted hereafter as AAV receptor (AAVR)). We characterize AAVR as a protein capable of rapid endocytosis from the plasma membrane and trafficking to the trans-Golgi network. We show that AAVR directly binds to AAV2 particles, and that anti-AAVR antibodies efficiently block AAV2 infection. Moreover, genetic ablation of AAVR renders a wide range of mammalian cell types highly resistant to AAV2 infection. Notably, AAVR serves as a critical host factor for all tested AAV serotypes. The importance of AAVR for in vivo gene delivery is further highlighted by the robust resistance of Aavr(-/-) (also known as Au040320(-/-) and Kiaa0319l(-/-)) mice to AAV infection. Collectively, our data indicate that AAVR is a universal receptor involved in AAV infection.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature16465

    View details for PubMedID 26814968

  • Hunting Viral Receptors Using Haploid Cells ANNUAL REVIEW OF VIROLOGY, VOL 2 Pillay, S., Carette, J. E. 2015; 2: 219-239
  • RIP3 induces apoptosis independent of pronecrotic kinase activity. Molecular cell Mandal, P., Berger, S. B., Pillay, S., Moriwaki, K., Huang, C., Guo, H., Lich, J. D., Finger, J., Kasparcova, V., Votta, B., Ouellette, M., King, B. W., Wisnoski, D., Lakdawala, A. S., DeMartino, M. P., Casillas, L. N., Haile, P. A., Sehon, C. A., Marquis, R. W., Upton, J., Daley-Bauer, L. P., Roback, L., Ramia, N., Dovey, C. M., Carette, J. E., Chan, F. K., Bertin, J., Gough, P. J., Mocarski, E. S., Kaiser, W. J. 2014; 56 (4): 481-495


    Receptor-interacting protein kinase 3 (RIP3 or RIPK3) has emerged as a central player in necroptosis and a potential target to control inflammatory disease. Here, three selective small-molecule compounds are shown to inhibit RIP3 kinase-dependent necroptosis, although their therapeutic value is undermined by a surprising, concentration-dependent induction of apoptosis. These compounds interact with RIP3 to activate caspase 8 (Casp8) via RHIM-driven recruitment of RIP1 (RIPK1) to assemble a Casp8-FADD-cFLIP complex completely independent of pronecrotic kinase activities and MLKL. RIP3 kinase-dead D161N mutant induces spontaneous apoptosis independent of compound, whereas D161G, D143N, and K51A mutants, like wild-type, only trigger apoptosis when compound is present. Accordingly, RIP3-K51A mutant mice (Rip3(K51A/K51A)) are viable and fertile, in stark contrast to the perinatal lethality of Rip3(D161N/D161N) mice. RIP3 therefore holds both necroptosis and apoptosis in balance through a Ripoptosome-like platform. This work highlights a common mechanism unveiling RHIM-driven apoptosis by therapeutic or genetic perturbation of RIP3.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.molcel.2014.10.021

    View details for PubMedID 25459880

  • Expression of a versatile DC-targeting fusion protein using an Adenovirus expression system PROTEIN EXPRESSION AND PURIFICATION Pillay, S., Patterson, S. 2012; 84 (2): 270-279


    The importance of viral and tumour vaccines in eliciting elicit strong CD8+ T-cell responses has been widely acknowledged. Strategies exploring ways to enhance CD8+ T-cell responses have been developed, including targeting of vaccine antigens to dendritic cell (DC) receptors to access to the cross presentation pathway. Many DC endocytic receptors could potentially lead to augmented CD8+ T-cell responses if antigens were targeted directly to them, however only a few receptors have been explored because current targeting reagents are limited in the number of receptors that they are able to target. Consequently, this study describes the production and purification of a streptavidin-fusion protein that provides a versatile and efficient means to target antigen to more than one DC receptor. A model antigen gene, CMV pp65, and a streptavidin core gene, were spliced together using an overlap-extension PCR technique. The resulting fusion gene was cloned into a vector allowing expression in an Adenovirus-based expression system. Expression was verified and optimised before Ni-NTA affinity chromatography purification. Evaluation of pp65-streptavidin immunogenicity revealed that it elicits similar levels of CD8+ T-cell proliferative responses as pp65 and is able to effectively target specific DC receptors when used in addition to biotinylated receptor-specific antibodies. Additionally, enhancement of CD8+ T-cell responses was shown after directing pp65-strep to selected DC receptors in preliminary in vitro experiments. Collectively, this highlights the ease of production of a streptavidin-fusion protein, and demonstrates its use as a promising strategy to evaluate numerous DC receptors as potential targets in vaccine strategies.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.pep.2012.06.004

    View details for Web of Science ID 000306885500013

    View details for PubMedID 22728768

  • HIV-1 sub-type C chimaeric VLPs boost cellular immune responses in mice. Journal of immune based therapies and vaccines Pillay, S., Shephard, E. G., Meyers, A. E., Williamson, A., Rybicki, E. P. 2010; 8: 7-?


    Several approaches have been explored to eradicate HIV; however, a multigene vaccine appears to be the best option, given their proven potential to elicit broad, effective responses in animal models. The Pr55Gag protein is an excellent vaccine candidate in its own right, given that it can assemble into large, enveloped, virus-like particles (VLPs) which are highly immunogenic, and can moreover be used as a scaffold for the presentation of other large non-structural HIV antigens. In this study, we evaluated the potential of two novel chimaeric HIV-1 Pr55Gag-based VLP constructs - C-terminal fusions with reverse transcriptase and a Tat::Nef fusion protein, designated GagRT and GagTN respectively - to enhance a cellular response in mice when used as boost components in two types of heterologous prime-boost vaccine strategies. A vaccine regimen consisting of a DNA prime and chimaeric HIV-1 VLP boosts in mice induced strong, broad cellular immune responses at an optimum dose of 100 ng VLPs. The enhanced cellular responses induced by the DNA prime-VLP boost were two- to three-fold greater than two DNA vaccinations. Moreover, a mixture of GagRT and GagTN VLPs also boosted antigen-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T-cell responses, while VLP vaccinations only induced predominantly robust Gag CD4+ T-cell responses. The results demonstrate the promising potential of these chimaeric VLPs as vaccine candidates against HIV-1.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/1476-8518-8-7

    View details for PubMedID 21087527

  • Optimization of Chimeric HIV-1 Virus-Like Particle Production in a Baculovirus-Insect Cell Expression System BIOTECHNOLOGY PROGRESS Pillay, S., Meyers, A., Williamson, A., Rybicki, E. P. 2009; 25 (4): 1153-1160


    A baculovirus-insect cell expression system potentially provides the means to produce prophylactic HIV-1 virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines inexpensively and in large quantities. However, the system must be optimized to maximize yields and increase process efficiency. In this study, we optimized the production of two novel, chimeric HIV-1 VLP vaccine candidates (GagRT and GagTN) in insect cells. This was done by monitoring the effects of four specific factors on VLP expression: these were insect cell line, cell density, multiplicity of infection (MOI), and infection time. The use of western blots, Gag p24 ELISA, and four-factorial ANOVA allowed the determination of the most favorable conditions for chimeric VLP production, as well as which factors affected VLP expression most significantly. Both VLP vaccine candidates favored similar optimal conditions, demonstrating higher yields of VLPs when produced in the Trichoplusia ni Pro insect cell line, at a cell density of 1 x 10(6) cells/mL, and an infection time of 96 h post infection. It was found that cell density and infection time were major influencing factors, but that MOI did not affect VLP expression significantly. This work provides a potentially valuable guideline for HIV-1 protein vaccine optimization, as well as for general optimization of a baculovirus-based expression system to produce complex recombinant proteins.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/btpr.187

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269403000031

    View details for PubMedID 19572400

  • Chimaeric HIV-1 subtype C Gag molecules with large in-frame C-terminal polypeptide fusions form virus-like particles VIRUS RESEARCH Halsey, R. J., Tanzer, F. L., Meyers, A., Pillay, S., Lynch, A., Shephard, E., Williamson, A., Rybicki, E. P. 2008; 133 (2): 259-268


    HIV-1 Pr55 Gag virus-like particles (VLPs) are strong immunogens with potential as candidate HIV vaccines. VLP immunogenicity can be broadened by making chimaeric Gag molecules: however, VLPs incorporating polypeptides longer than 200 aa fused in frame with Gag have not yet been reported. We constructed a range of gag-derived genes encoding in-frame C-terminal fusions of myristoylation-competent native Pr55Gag and p6-truncated Gag (Pr50Gag) to test the effects of polypeptide length and sequence on VLP formation and morphology, in an insect cell expression system. Fused sequences included a modified reverse transcriptase-Tat-Nef fusion polypeptide (RTTN, 778 aa), and truncated versions of RTTN ranging from 113 aa to 450 aa. Baculovirus-expressed chimaeric proteins were examined by western blot and electron microscopy. All chimaeras formed VLPs which could be purified by sucrose gradient centrifugation. VLP diameter increased with protein MW, from approximately 100 nm for Pr55Gag to approximately 250 nm for GagRTTN. The presence or absence of the Gag p6 region did not obviously affect VLP formation or appearance. GagRT chimaeric particles were successfully used in mice to boost T-cell responses to Gag and RT that were elicited by a DNA vaccine encoding a GagRTTN polypeptide, indicating the potential of such chimaeras to be used as candidate HIV vaccines.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.virusres.2008.01.012

    View details for Web of Science ID 000255467700015

    View details for PubMedID 18329748