Dr. Pakieli H Kaufusi received his B.A. in agricultural chemistry from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji in 1990, his M.A. in molecular virology in 1991, and his Ph.D. in molecular biotechnology & bacterial genetic from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2005. He then conducted postdoctoral research with Dr. Vivek Nerurkar at John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii from 2005 to 2011 before receiving a faculty position in the department of Tropical Medicine at University of Hawaii. He is a member of the American Society for Virology, American Society for Microbiology, and American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene. Dr. Kaufusi’s research interest is on positive RNA flavivirus, specifically to study dengue-, Zika-, and West Nile virus-associated diseases. His current research focuses on delineating the function of various viral proteins including NS1, NS2B, NS2A, NS3, NS4B, NS5 which are common to all members of the flavivirus with no clear function in the virus lifecycle. Dr. Kaufusi has demonstrated the association of flavivirus proteins with the induction of cytokines and chemokines associated with the disease. Elucidating these viral components provides insight into the viral lifecycle and opportunities for therapeutic intervention.
Our research is broadly focused on understanding how viruses exploit the host cellular processes to facilitate their lifecycle. Many single positive strand RNA viruses, which include notable human pathogens such as dengue virus, Zika virus, West Nile virus, and hepatitis C virus, exploit host intracellular membranes to assemble components of their replication machinery. We have demonstrated the importance of delineating the regulatory role of the flavivirus non-structural (NS) proteins in the biogenesis of these unique membrane structures. Based on those findings we proposed various flavivirus NS proteins (NS1, NS2B, NS3, NS$, NS5) as targets for antiviral drug discovery. With collaborative effort with other virologists, NS4B has been the important target. Few drugs are still clinically tested. We also found that NS4B is a key regulator of the chemokines and cytokines associated with flavivirus diseases.