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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 24, 2023
  2. Abstract

    Potts models and variational autoencoders (VAEs) have recently gained popularity as generative protein sequence models (GPSMs) to explore fitness landscapes and predict mutation effects. Despite encouraging results, current model evaluation metrics leave unclear whether GPSMs faithfully reproduce the complex multi-residue mutational patterns observed in natural sequences due to epistasis. Here, we develop a set of sequence statistics to assess the “generative capacity” of three current GPSMs: the pairwise Potts Hamiltonian, the VAE, and the site-independent model. We show that the Potts model’s generative capacity is largest, as the higher-order mutational statistics generated by the model agree with those observedmore »for natural sequences, while the VAE’s lies between the Potts and site-independent models. Importantly, our work provides a new framework for evaluating and interpreting GPSM accuracy which emphasizes the role of higher-order covariation and epistasis, with broader implications for probabilistic sequence models in general.

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  3. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has necessitated the rapid development of prophylactic vaccines. Two mRNA vaccines have been approved for emergency use by the FDA and have demonstrated extraordinary effectiveness. The success of these mRNA vaccines establishes the speed of development and therapeutic potential of mRNA. These authorized vaccines encode full-length versions of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. They are formulated with lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery vehicles that have inherent immunostimulatory properties. Different vaccination strategies and alternative mRNA delivery vehicles would be desirable to ensure flexibility of future generations of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and the development of mRNA vaccines in general. Here, we reportmore »on the development of an alternative mRNA vaccine approach using a delivery vehicle called charge-altering releasable transporters (CARTs). Using these inherently nonimmunogenic vehicles, we can tailor the vaccine immunogenicity by inclusion of coformulated adjuvants such as oligodeoxynucleotides with CpG motifs (CpG-ODN). Mice vaccinated with the mRNACART vaccine developed therapeutically relevant levels of receptor binding domain (RBD)-specific neutralizing antibodies in both the circulation and in the lung bronchial fluids. In addition, vaccination elicited strong and long-lasting RBD-specific TH1 T cell responses including CD4+ and CD8+ T cell memory.« less