Paulo Verardi, Ph.D.
Department Head and Associate Professor of Virology and Vaccinology
- Storrs CT UNITED STATES
Expert on vaccine development & virology (Smallpox, Rinderpest, Zika, coronaviruses, Rift Valley, Powassan, SFTSV, Heartland, & more)Contact More Open options
August 17, 2022
April 01, 2021
Dr. Verardi is a virologist who specializes in vaccine research and development. He is a Department Head and Associate Professor at UConn and a member of the Center of Excellence for Vaccine Research. Dr. Verardi studied Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil before earning his Ph.D. in Molecular Virology from the University of California, Davis. He has a broad background in molecular biology, virology, and immunology, with an interest in vaccine and immunotherapeutic vector development. He has worked on vaccinia virus immunomodulating genes, cytokines as attenuating and immunoenhancing agents, the development of a vaccinia virus-based vaccine for rinderpest, safer and more efficacious vaccine vectors for smallpox and AIDS, vaccines and design of safer and diagnostics for Rift Valley fever, foot-and-mouth disease, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, and more recently Zika virus, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), and a number of other mosquito- and tick-borne agents.
Areas of Expertise
University of California
Comparative Pathology (Molecular Virology)
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
‘Zombie’ viruses are thawing in melting permafrost because of climate change
The Washington Post print
“In nature we have a big natural freezer, which is the Siberian permafrost,” said Paulo Verardi, a virologist who is the head of the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science at the University of Connecticut. “And that can be a little bit concerning,” especially if pathogens are frozen inside animals or people, he said.
Monkeypox and kids: What to know about the virus spreading, vaccines and more
Hearst Connecticut Media print
With school starting soon in Connecticut, Hearst Connecticut Media Group turned to Paulo Verardi, a UConn virologist and specialist in pox viruses, including smallpox and monkeypox, for answers about the risk to children.
Monkeypox in kids: How prepared is Connecticut?
Hearst Connecticut Media print
University of Connecticut virologist Paolo Verardi said younger children are particularly at risk from monkeypox, as well as immunocompromised patients. “The types of people that are most susceptible are the ones that are very young and they have an underdeveloped immune system,” he said. “So, young children, anybody that’s immunosuppressed, and you may be immunosuppressed because they may be taking a drug for an autoimmune disease.”
Is ‘monkeypox’ racist? Officials call for name change
Hearst Connecticut Media print
University of Connecticut virologist Paulo Verardi, a specialist in pox viruses, explained that the virus is called “monkeypox” because it was first identified in monkeys, though that is something of a misnomer. “It became clear over time that monkeys, just like humans, were incidental hosts,” Verardi said. “In nature, monkeypox virus is typically isolated from rodents in Africa, particularly squirrels, so it seems to be a ‘rodent’ virus, not a ‘monkey’ virus.”
Monkeypox: Six things to know about the outbreak after first CT case detected
Hearst Connecticut print
Smallpox and monkeypox are directly related, so the smallpox vaccine does work against monkeypox, according to University of Connecticut virologist Paulo Verardi. The important difference is that smallpox only affects humans. “Smallpox had one benefit to it: It did not have an animal reservoir. It’s one of those few diseases that is only a human disease, period,” Verardi said. “It’s very, very unusual.”
‘Not All Masks Are Made the Same': Why Doctors Say You Should Upgrade Your Mask
As the Omicron surge continues across the country, experts recommend upgrading your face mask. If you are relying on a homemade or cloth face covering, it might be time to reconsider. "The idea of face coverings is really old-fashioned. Quite honestly, it was not even good enough for the original virus," said Dr. Paulo Verardi, an associate professor of virology and vaccinology at the University of Connecticut. "It was the best we could do at the time. It was better than not wearing anything." Nearly two years into the pandemic, with a greater supply of medical masks and a highly transmissible variant, Verardi stresses that there are better options now. He says the N95 respirator offers the most protection.
Southeastern CT Towns Not Planning on Local Mask Mandates Right Now
NBC Connecticut tv
New London county is currently seeing a "substantial" level of COVID transmission, according to the CDC. To keep New London county from joining Hartford and New Haven counties in the "high" transmission level category, experts say masking and vaccinations are key. “We do have some control over the situation," said Dr. Paulo Verardi, a professor of virology and vaccinology at the University of Connecticut. “Masks are important to slow down the spread, to make the wave pass as quick as possible and also to make the wave as small as possible.”
Vaccine Trust Is Up, Pew Finds, Along With Attitudes on Masks
Courthouse News Service online
Paulo Verardi, an associate professor of virology and vaccinology at the University of Connecticut, called the study promising as it will be important for a large sector of the population to get the vaccine. “To attain herd immunity, it’s expected that at least two-thirds of the population, if not more, would need to be immune against Covid-19,” Verardi said in an email. “The fact that 60% of Americans now say that they would get a Covid-19 vaccine is very encouraging, and I predict that this number will be even higher as vaccines start being distributed and administered. If enough people don’t get vaccinated, the virus and its negative consequences for all of us, will linger.”
Next Challenge for Schools? Safe Ventilation In Classrooms
NBC CT tv
COVID-19 has not been designated an airborne disease by the World Health Organization yet, but scientists believe there is enough evidence to prove there is the potential for airborne transmission. So what are the 1,187 schools in Connecticut doing to improve ventilation? “Each school is different, each classroom inside a school is different,” Paulo Verardi, an associate professor of virology and vaccinology at the University of Connecticut, said. “Some have windows that open to the outside, some don’t have windows that open to the outside. Some actually have HVAC systems, some actually don’t have HVAC systems so it’s a complicated situation.”
Stopping the spread: Federal investment boosts Meriden facility’s search for vaccine
Meriden Record Journal print
Paulo H. Verardi, Ph.D., associate professor of virology and vaccinology at UConn, said the speed of development and testing is unusual but understandable because of the public health and economic harm caused by the pandemic. ”The situation is different right now. There’s a lot of public pressure,” Verardi said. “A big majority want to consider this vaccine sooner rather than later. You have to think a little outside the box, which is one reason why the government is being more proactive.”
Herd immunity would come with ‘enormous potential human toll’
The New London Day print
Verardi said we "really didn't have time to develop good antibody tests, and developing good antibody tests is a long process." One issue is there are other coronaviruses, and a test could pick up one of them instead of this one, giving people with positive results a "false sense of security" that they're protected.
Delivering Covid-19 vaccine to 7.8 billion will be the biggest challenge in coming months, warn experts
MEA Worldwide online
Only a few months into the pandemic, human trials of a few Covid-19 vaccines have already begun. Experts, however, believe that hastening the vaccine development procedures could backfire. "The vaccine development and approval process is a very long one, mostly because both safety and efficacy must be determined in human clinical trials in a stepwise fashion," Paulo H Verardi, PhD, associate professor of Virology, University of Connecticut told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). "Trying to do that in the middle of a pandemic, affecting the research and clinical enterprises and with a broken supply chain, makes it even more challenging. And at the end of the day, the safety of the vaccine will be all that matters, so it is important to get it right. That may take several months to a year, at a minimum."
A coronavirus pandemic is sweeping the world, but what exactly is a virus? Is it alive?
USA Today print
“By themselves, they can’t do anything. They need a host cell to replicate,” virologist Paulo Verardi told USA TODAY. Verardi works on vaccine development and is a University of Connecticut professor. He suggested thinking of them like a parasite: an organism that survives by harming another species.
New ticks bring new health concerns. UConn associate professor of pathobiology Paulo Verardi explains the significance of the Asian longhorned tick, and how he and his team have been anticipating the species’ arrival.
Some Antibiotics Rev Up Host Immune Response to Viruses
The Scientist online
Last week, Paulo Verardi got a paper cut refilling the printer in his office at the University of Connecticut. The virologist started looking through a drawer for some Neosporin, and it got him thinking about what the cream really does. A study he was reading that same day found that treating mice topically with antibiotics in a class known as aminoglycosides—which include neomycin, the antibiotic in Neosporin—helped them fend off infection by some viruses. “This opens our mind to all of these other off-target effects that any drug can have, including antibiotics,” he explains.
Zika: Out Of Sight But Not Out Of Mind For Researchers
Connecticut Public Radio radio
It’s mosquito season and the Zika virus still remains a threat in many parts of the world — including here in the U.S. This hour, we hear the latest on efforts to develop a Zika vaccine and we find out what researchers have learned since last summer about how the virus causes microcephaly in newborns.
Zika Starts New Vaccine Race
Hartford Courant online
"Immediately, since I work in vaccine development, we wanted to start working on a vaccine for Zika," Verardi said. "When we actually made the connection [between Zika and microcephaly] I called them up to my office and said 'There's a grant deadline for UConn tomorrow. … Let's just work on it.' So we spent a lot of time … trying to convince people how significant it was."
At UConn, a Brazilian emigre searches for a way to stop Zika
Boston Globe online
As a virus called Zika rampaged across his native Brazil last fall, Paulo H. Verardi followed along in the Brazilian newspapers he reads online in his University of Connecticut office. With growing astonishment, he learned that the little-known virus had been linked to a rare and devastating birth defect: babies born with malformed heads and underdeveloped brains. Verardi, a vaccine researcher, sensed something big was happening — weeks before the US media paid any attention. He had just finished devising a method that could speed an early stage of vaccine development. He needed to test his method on a virus. And he knew the world needed to stop Zika.
How worried should you be about coronavirus variants? A virologist explains his concernsThe Conversation
Spring has sprung, and there is a sense of relief in the air. After one year of lockdowns and social distancing, more than 171 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. and about 19.4% of the population is fully vaccinated. But there is something else in the air: ominous SARS-CoV-2 variants. I am a virologist and vaccinologist, which means that I spend my days studying viruses and designing and testing vaccine strategies against viral diseases. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, this work has taken on greater urgency. We humans are in a race to become immune against this cagey virus, whose ability to mutate and adapt seems to be a step ahead of our capacity to gain herd immunity. Because of the variants that are emerging, it could be a race to the wire.
A PRRSV GP5-Mosaic vaccine: Protection of pigs from challenge and ex vivo detection of IFNγ responses against several genotype 2 strains.PLos One
Verardi PH, et al.
2019 Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), is a highly mutable RNA virus that affects swine worldwide and its control is very challenging due to its formidable heterogeneity in the field. In the present study, DNA vaccines constructed with PRRSV GP5-Mosaic sequences were complexed to cationic liposomes and administered to experimental pigs by intradermal and intramuscular injection, followed by three boosters 14, 28 and 42 days later.
Antibiotic-dependent expression of early transcription factor subunits leads to stringent control of vaccinia virus replication.Virus Res.
Hagen CJ, Titong A, Sarnoski EA, Verardi PH.
2014 The use of vaccinia virus (VACV) as the vaccine against variola virus resulted in the eradication of smallpox. VACV has since been used in the development of recombinant vaccine and therapeutic vectors, but complications associated with uncontrolled viral replication have constrained its use as a live viral vector.
IL-18 expression results in a recombinant vaccinia virus that is highly attenuated and immunogenic.J Interferon Cytokine Res
Verardi PH, et al.
2014 Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) is an attenuating factor for vaccinia virus (VACV), decreasing its virulence in vivo by more than a million fold. It is also a highly effective adjuvant when administered at the time of immunization with protein antigens. However, recombinant VACV (rVACV) vaccines expressing IFN-γ do not induce enhanced immune responses.
Safety mechanism assisted by the repressor of tetracycline (SMART) vaccinia virus vectors for vaccines and therapeutics.Proc Natl Acad Sci USA.
Verardi PH, et al.
2013 Replication-competent viruses, such as Vaccinia virus (VACV), are powerful tools for the development of oncolytic viral therapies and elicit superior immune responses when used as vaccine and immunotherapeutic vectors. However, severe complications from uncontrolled viral replication can occur, particularly in immunocompromised individuals or in those with other predisposing conditions. VACVs constitutively expressing interferon-γ (IFN-γ) replicate in cell culture indistinguishably from control viruses; however, they replicate in vivo to low or undetectable levels, and are rapidly cleared even in immunodeficient animals.
Use of a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing interferon gamma for post-exposure protection against vaccinia and ectromelia viruses.PLoS One
Verardi PH, et al.
2013 Post-exposure vaccination with vaccinia virus (VACV) has been suggested to be effective in minimizing death if administered within four days of smallpox exposure. While there is anecdotal evidence for efficacy of post-exposure vaccination this has not been definitively studied in humans.
Recombinant Rift Valley fever vaccines induce protective levels of antibody in baboons and resistance to lethal challenge in mice.Proc Natl Acad Sci USA.
Verardi PH, et al.
2011 Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a zoonotic disease endemic in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula caused by the highly infectious Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) that can be lethal to humans and animals and results in major losses in the livestock industry. RVF is exotic to the United States; however, mosquito species native to this region can serve as biological vectors for the virus.