Biography Dra. Margarita K. Lay

Dra. Margarita K. Lay
Adjunct Investigator
Universidad de Antofagasta

Dr. Margarita K. Lay obtained her Bachelor degree in Biological Sciences at the P. Universidad Católica de Chile. Then, she worked in the Virology Unit of the University of Chile, participating in epidemiological studies of respiratory viruses and in a Phase I clinical trial for an influenza vaccine. Afterwards, she traveled to the USA and worked in the laboratory of Dr. Roy Curtiss III at the Washington University in St. Louis, USA, participating in a Phase I clinical trial to test a candidate vaccine against Salmonella Typhi and in developing other candidate vaccines against pathogenic bacteria. Subsequently, she participated in the discovery and characterization of the murine norovirus, in the laboratory of Dr. Herbert W. Virgin IV of the same university. The finding of this virus was published in the prestigious journal Science. In parallel, Dr. Lay earned her Master degree in Biology at the Washington University in St. Louis. Later, she obtained her Ph.D degree in Molecular Virology and Microbiology, doing her thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Mary Estes at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, which consisted of developing a possible cell culture system for the replication of Norwalk virus, the prototype human norovirus, as well as, the study of the innate response to this virus. Later, Dr. Lay returned to Chile in the year 2011 and did her Postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Alexis Kalergis at the P. Universidad Católica de Chile, studying the immune response to respiratory viruses, which led her to obtain numerous publications and international awards, such as the Young Investigator Award given by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, she also participated in bringing the candidate vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), developed in Dr. Kalergis´s lab, to be considered one of the seven best products of Innovation in Chile, according to CORFO and the Stanford Research Institute International. She has also participated as Co-Director of a Linking Science and Business project to have a Vaccine Manufacturing Center in Chile.

Currently, Dr. Lay is an Assistant Professor of the Biotechnology Department of the Faculty of Marine Sciences and Biological Resources at the Universidad de Antofagasta. As an academic, she has also participated as a member of the Norovirus Specialist Group of the Chilean Agency for Food Safety and Quality (ACHIPIA) of the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture.

Research Lines:

Human noroviruses are the cause of more than 95% of epidemic nonbacterial gastroenteritis worldwide, with some lethal cases. Moreover, several infections and outbreaks, caused by human norovirus, have been reported in Chile. In addition, it is: the most common cause of diarrhea in adults; the second most common cause in children; and the main cause of severe gastroenteritis in children less than 5 years old worldwide after rotaviruses. Nowadays, neither commercial vaccine nor therapeutic tools are available to prevent human norovirus infections. This is due, because just until recently, there was neither an efficient in vitro cell culture system nor a small animal model for its study.

Investigations of Dr. Lay, related to human noroviruses, include:

  • Study of viral and cellular components that contribute to the resistance and pathogenesis of human noroviruses.
  • Study of new tools for the detection and diagnosis of human noroviruses.

On the other hand, RSV and human Metapneumovirus (hMPV) are the most important viral agents that cause diseases in the lower respiratory tract, mainly affecting infants, children and the elderly. There are also no vaccines and only limited therapeutic tools for these viruses. Moreover, the mechanisms by which these viruses infect the air epithelium and obstruct the airways remain to be fully elucidated.

Investigations of Dr. Lay, related to respiratory viruses, include:

  • Study of the mechanisms involved in airway obstruction after RSV or hMPV infections.

Lab team members:

Darling Escobar

Paula Ardiles

Jonatan Carvajal

Ivette Valdivia

Cristián Flores

Brian Parra

Publications (last 5 years):

González AE, Lay MK, Jara EL, Espinoza JA, Gómez RS, Soto J, Rivera CA, Abarca K, Bueno SM,  Riedel CA, Kalergis AM. Aberrant T Cell Immunity Triggered by Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Human Metapneumovirus infection. Virulence, 2016 Dec 2:1-20, doi: 10.1080/21505594.2016.1265725. [Epub ahead of print] 2016
Qu L, Murakami K, Broughman JR, Lay MK, Guix S, Tenge VR, Atmar RL, Estes MK. “Replication of human norovirus RNA in mammalian cells reveals a lack of interferon response”. Journal of Virology. 2016 Sep 12;90(19):8906-23. 2016
Palavecino CE, Céspedes PF, Lay MK, Riedel CA, Kalergis AM, Bueno SM. “Understanding Lung Immunopathology Caused by the Human Metapneumovirus: Implications for Rational Vaccine Design”. Crit Rev Immunol. 2015;35(3):185-202 2015
Bertrand P and Lay MK, Piedimonte G, Brockmann P, Palavecino CE, Hernandez J, León MA, Kalergis AM, Bueno SM. “Elevated levels of IL-3 and IL-12p40 detected in the lungs of infants with RSV bronchiolitis correlate with development of recurrent wheezing”. Cytokine. 2015 Dec;76(2):417-23. 2015
Lay MK, Bueno SM, Gálvez N, Riedel CA, Kalergis AM. “New insights on the viral and host factors contributing to the airway pathogenesis caused by the respiratory syncytial virus”. Critical Reviews in Microbiology. 2016 Sep;42(5):800-12. 2015
Bohmwald K, Espinoza JA, Becerra D, Rivera K, Lay MK, Bueno SM, Riedel CA, Kalergis AM. “Inflammatory damage on respiratory and nervous systems due to hRSV infection”. Curr Opin Immunol. 2015 Oct;36:14-21. 2015
Lay MK, Céspedes PF, Palavecino CE, León MA, Díaz RA, Salazar FJ, Méndez GP, Bueno SM, Kalergis AM. Human metapneumovirus infection activates the TSLP pathway that drives excessive pulmonary inflammation and viral replication in mice. Eur J Immunol. 2015 Jun;45(6):1680-95. 2015
Herbst-Kralovetz MM, Radtke AL, Lay MK, Hjelm BE, Bolick AN, Sarker SS, Atmar RL, Kingsley DH, Arntzen CJ, Estes MK, Nickerson CA. Lack of norovirus replication and histo-blood group antigen expression in 3-dimensional intestinal epithelial cells. Emerg Infect Dis. 2013 Mar;19(3):431-8 2013
Lay MK, González PA, León MA, Céspedes PF, Bueno SM, Riedel CA, Kalergis AM. Advances in understanding respiratory syncytial virus infection in airway epithelial cells and consequential effects on the immune response. Microbes Infect. 2013 Mar;15(3):230-42. 2013