McMaster University

McMaster University

Karen Mossman

, PhD

Pathology and Molecular Medicine

Division: Molecular Medicine
McMaster Immunology Research Centre

Associate Vice-President (Research)

Associate Member, Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences

McMaster University
5026 Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning & Discovery
905-525-9140 ext. 23542

Karen Mossman

Faculty Biography

Education and Professional Standing

  • PhD Biochemistry, University of Alberta 1997
  • HBSc Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Guelph 1992


Research Focus

The focus of our research is to understand how viruses evade host immune defenses. When a virus infects a host, the host mounts an impressive immune response aimed at preventing the virus from multiplying and spreading. Viruses have evolved strategies to block this response in order to ensure their survival. Probably the most important aspect of the host immune response to virus infection is the production of an immune modulator called interferon. Interferon has a great impact on host defense mechanisms and as a result viruses have evolved multiple strategies to overcome its activities. We are currently studying the mechanisms of interferon inhibition and the countermeasures taken by different viruses.

These studies have led us to developing viruses for use in gene therapy and cancer therapy. The virus that we focus on is herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) which is a human pathogen that causes cold sores. We have found that by disabling the virus through removal of particular genes, the virus can grow in cancer cells and kill these cells while having no effect on healthy cells. Such viruses, called "oncolytic viruses" are currently being tested as a novel approach to cancer therapy in the hopes of eliminating tumors without the toxic side effects associated with many current treatments. HSV-1 is also being studied as a tool for gene therapy, since it is easy to manipulate, it can be targeted to specific tissues and it can house several therapeutic genes in a single vector. Thus, overall, our goal is to understand how viruses and their hosts interact with each other so that we can use viruses as tools for the treatment of multiple diseases.

Academic Interests

Dr. Mossman is involved in teaching within the Faculty of Health Sciences within the following programs:

  • Bachelor of Health Sciences Undergraduate Program, HTH SCI 3K03: Introductory Virology
  • Medical Sciences Graduate Program, MS763: Medical Virology


Selected Publications

Visit Dr Mossman's McMaster Immunology Research Centre (MIRC) website for more information


Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0