Our lungs are constantly under attack from the environment, including allergens, cigarette smoke, and viruses like influenza and SARS-CoV-2. These threats can cause serious illness and even death, highlighting the importance of lung health. Our research lab is dedicated to understanding how our bodies defend against these attacks.

We focus on three key areas:

  • how lung cells repair themselves after injury
  • how viral infections of the respiratory tract exacerbate cigarette smoke-induced lung inflammation, and
  • how viruses hijack our cells to replicate and cause disease.

By understanding how viruses interact with our cells, we believe we can unlock new avenues for treatment and even vaccines. Our current NIH-funded research uses a patient-centered approach to investigate these critical questions. Viruses rely on our own cellular machinery to reproduce. Our current research focuses on pinpointing key host cell proteins in airway epithelial cells that play a crucial role in the replication of influenza A virus (IAV) and SARS-CoV-2. We are also delving deeper into the molecular mechanisms behind these interactions. By identifying the proteins involved, we can potentially disrupt this interaction and stop the virus in its tracks. This knowledge could lead to the development of new antiviral drugs or vaccines.

Our passion lies in improving lung health and preventing lung disease. We actively collaborate with researchers at leading institutions, such as The Ohio State University, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to build on existing knowledge and accelerate progress. This collaborative approach allows us to share expertise and ideas, ultimately leading to better treatments for lung diseases. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've expanded our research to understand SARS-CoV-2 better. Our goal remains the same: to uncover new targets for treating both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infections, while also identifying genetic factors that increase susceptibility to severe illness.

Our Team

Yohannes Mebratu  

Yohannes A. Mebratu, DVM, MS, PhD

Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor

My research journey began with the fundamental question of how the airways maintain a healthy balance of cells following injury from infections and other insults. My research program investigates the critical role of host gene polymorphisms and cellular proteins in influencing the replication of influenza A virus (IAV) and SARS-CoV-2, ultimately affecting disease severity in humans. I am driven to elucidate the host response and identify key cellular proteins critical for influenza A (IA) and SARS-CoV-2 replication and pathogenesis. In my free time, I enjoy activities like jogging, working out, and spending quality time with my family.

Sourabh Soni 

Sourabh Soni, PhD

Research Senior Associate

A molecular biologist by training, I earned my Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from CSIR-IHBT, India. Following my graduation in 2019, I pursued postdoctoral training at the Brigham & Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston. While in Dr. Shule's Lab, I investigated the therapeutic potential of the AMPK-autophagy pathway in bronchopulmonary dysplasia. In June 2021, I joined Dr. Mebratu's lab at Brigham & Women's Hospital and transitioned to The Ohio State University's Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine. My current research focuses on how influenza A viruses (IAVs) interact with host cells. By understanding how IAVs hijack cellular processes, we aim to identify potential therapeutic targets to treat influenza.

Vandana Anang 

Vandana Anang, PhD

Postdoctoral Scholar

I hold a Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from the University of Delhi (February 2022) and recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (May-October 2023). Prior to that, I gained research experience at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology's Parasite Cell Biology Lab. Currently, at Dr. Mebratu's lab in the Department of Medicine at The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH), I'm investigating how influenza A and SARS-CoV-2 viruses manipulate host cells for replication. With over 8 years of expertise in molecular biology and immunology, I possess a strong foundation in primary cell culture (including bone marrow-derived dendritic cells, T cells, PBMCs). My future research interests lie in immune regulation, host-pathogen interactions, and therapeutic development across various diseases. Outside of the lab, I enjoy socializing with friends, exploring new cuisines, and staying active through walks.

Laura Antonescu 

Laura Antonescu, BS

Laboratory Technician

Hailing from Cleveland, I recently graduated from The Ohio State University (December 2023) with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Microbiology. Driven by an interest in medicine, I joined Dr. Mebratu's lab, where I gained valuable research experience studying the influenza A virus and honed my laboratory skills. Outside of research, I prioritize staying active, cherishing time with loved ones, and exploring new culinary adventures.

Research projects

Research projects





Mauricio Rojas, MD

Jacob Yount
College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Microbiology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH


Yohannes Tesfaigzi, PhD
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard, Medical School, Boston, MA

Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NY

Paul Thomas, PhD
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Mark Peeples, PhD
Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH