Jesse J. Kwiek, PhD

Jesse J. Kwiek, PhD

Jesse J. Kwiek, PhD

Professor of Microbiology

Room 428A, Biological Sciences Building

Areas of Expertise

  • Molecular biology in the service of public health
  • Virology
  • Pharmacology


  • B.S., Biochemistry, University of Rochester
  • U.S. Peace Corps, Malawi
  • Ph.D., Pharmacology, University of Virginia
  • Postdoc, Epidemiology, Virology, UNC-Chapel Hill

Research Interests

The Kwiek Lab leverages the tools of virology, epidemiology, and pharmacology to better understand viral pathogenesis and the public health impact of infectious diseases. Working bench-to-bedside, we seek to understand the contributions of de novo fatty acid biosynthesis to host pathogenesis, and using our novel fatty acid synthase inhibitor (Fasnall), we endeavor to develop a pan-antiviral therapeutic. Moving from bedside-to-bench, the Kwiek lab works with clinical cohorts to better understand how HIV and specific antiretroviral drugs affect birth outcomes.

Discovery and Development of Novel Antiviral Therapeutics. We discovered that de novo fatty acid biosynthesis, a process mediated by human Fatty Acid Synthase (FASN), is required for HIV replication; others have shown that FASN activity is required for Chikungunya, Dengue, Hepatitis A/B/C, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, and West Nile Virus replication. To identify molecules that target FASN, we assembled a purine-focused small molecule library, then used column-based assay to identify Fasnall, a novel molecule that inhibits FASN activity both in vitro (purified enzyme) and in cell-based FASN assays. Fasnall has potent anti-HIV activity in human primary cells and anti-tumor activity in mice. In April 2021 we were issued a patent related to methods of inhibiting enveloped viral replication with an inhibitor (Fasnall) that binds to the FASN purine-binding cofactor domain. Relevant papers include the following:

A bioorthogonal chemical reporter for fatty acid synthase-dependent protein acylation. Karthigeyan KP, Zhang L, Loiselle DR, Haystead TAJ, Bhat M, Yount JS, Kwiek JJ. J Biol Chem. 2021 Nov;297(5):101272. Epub 2021 Oct 1.PMID: 34606827 

Cellular fatty acid synthase is required for late stages of HIV-1 replication. Kulkarni MM, Ratcliff AN, Bhat M, Alwarawrah Y, Hughes P, Arcos J, Loiselle D, Torrelles JB, Funderburg NT, Haystead TA, Kwiek JJ. Retrovirology. 2017 Sep 29;14(1):45. PMID: 28962653 

Fasnall, a Selective FASN Inhibitor, Shows Potent Anti-tumor Activity in the MMTV-Neu Model of HER2(+) Breast Cancer. Alwarawrah Y, Hughes P, Loiselle D, Carlson DA, Darr DB, Jordan JL, Xiong J, Hunter LM, Dubois LG, Thompson JW, Kulkarni MM, Ratcliff AN, Kwiek JJ, Haystead TA. Cell Chem Biol. 2016 Jun 23;23(6):678-88. PMID: 27265747 

HIV and Pregnancy. The Kwiek lab has helped to define the biological mechanism of vertical HIV-1 transmission, identified the placenta as a specific compartment of HIV-1 replication, identified HIV-associated correlates of low infant birth weight, and written a systematic review that identified harmful relationships between classes of antiretroviral drugs and low birth weight. Current work focuses HIV-associated low birth weight (LBW), morbidity and mortality among HIV-exposed uninfected children. We are currently working with Dr. Marcel Yotebieng to investigate the long-term outcomes of HIV exposure and antiretroviral therapy in pregnant women living in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. This insight could ultimately identify an optimal HIV- treatment or care modality for pregnant WLH: one which promotes maternal health, prevents HIV mother-to-child transmission, and maximizes infant survival. Relevant papers include the following:

Use of Antiretroviral Therapy During Pregnancy and Adverse Birth Outcomes Among Women Living With HIV-1 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review. Saleska JL, Turner AN, Maierhofer C, Clark J, Kwiek JJ. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2018 Sep 1;79(1):1-9. PMID: 29847475

Severity of maternal HIV-1 disease is associated with adverse birth outcomes in Malawian women: a cohort study. Turner AN, Tabbah S, Mwapasa V, Rogerson SJ, Meshnick SR, Ackerman WE 4th, Kwiek JJ. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2013 Dec 1;64(4):392-9. PMID: 23846560 

Role of the placenta in adverse perinatal outcomes among HIV-1 seropositive women. Ackerman W 4th, Kwiek JJ. J Nippon Med Sch. 2013;80(2):90-4. PMID: 23657060 

Elevated cytokine and chemokine levels in the placenta are associated with in-utero HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission. Kumar SB, Rice CE, Milner DA Jr, Ramirez NC, Ackerman WE 4th, Mwapasa V, Turner AN, Kwiek JJ. AIDS. 2012 Mar 27;26(6):685-94. PMID: 22301415 

Different regions of HIV-1 subtype C env are associated with placental localization and in utero mother-to-child transmission. Kumar SB, Handelman SK, Voronkin I, Mwapasa V, Janies D, Rogerson SJ, Meshnick SR, Kwiek JJ. J Virol. 2011 Jul;85(14):7142-52. PMID: 21543508 

The molecular epidemiology of HIV-1 envelope diversity during HIV-1 subtype C vertical transmission in Malawian mother-infant pairs. Kwiek JJ, Russell ES, Dang KK, Burch CL, Mwapasa V, Meshnick SR, Swanstrom R. AIDS. 2008 Apr 23;22(7):863-71. PMID: 18427205 

Maternal-fetal microtransfusions and HIV-1 mother-to-child transmission in Malawi. Kwiek JJ, Mwapasa V, Milner DA Jr, Alker AP, Miller WC, Tadesse E, Molyneux ME, Rogerson SJ, Meshnick SR. PLoS Med. 2006 Jan;3(1):e10. PMID: 16287342 

Safety of Informal Breast Milk Exchanges. In collaboration with colleagues at Nationwide Children’s hospital, we documented that human breast milk purchased online is frequently contaminated or adulterated. The lab is currently collaborating with Rush University Medical Center on a NIH-funded project to test an economic intervention to improve adherence to safe feeding practices. Popular media perspectives on these studies by Conan O’Brien (here) and The Onion (herehere). Relevant papers include the following:

Safety of Breastfeeding by Mothers With COVID-19: New Evidence From Israel. Fouda GGA, Kwiek JJ, Yotebieng M. Pediatrics. 2021 May;147(5):e2020049772. PMID: 33850029 

Study protocol for reducing disparity in receipt of mother's own milk in very low birth weight infants (ReDiMOM): a randomized trial to improve adherence to sustained maternal breast pump use. Johnson TJ, Meier PP, Schoeny ME, Bucek A, Janes JE, Kwiek JJ, Zupancic JAF, Keim SA, Patel AL. BMC Pediatr. 2022 Jan 7;22(1):27. PMID: 34996401 

Drugs of Abuse in Human Milk Purchased via the Internet. Keim SA, McNamara K, Kwiek JJ, Geraghty SR. Breastfeed Med. 2015 Nov;10(9):416-8. PMID: 26460596 

Tobacco Metabolites and Caffeine in Human Milk Purchased via the Internet. Geraghty SR, McNamara K, Kwiek JJ, Rogers L, Klebanoff MA, Augustine M, Keim SA. Breastfeed Med. 2015 Nov;10(9):419-24. PMID: 26394021 

Cow's Milk Contamination of Human Milk Purchased via the Internet. Keim SA, Kulkarni MM, McNamara K, Geraghty SR, Billock RM, Ronau R, Hogan JS, Kwiek JJ. Pediatrics. 2015 May;135(5):e1157-62. PMID: 25847797 

Buying human milk via the internet: just a click away. Geraghty SR, McNamara KA, Dillon CE, Hogan JS, Kwiek JJ, Keim SA. Breastfeed Med. 2013 Dec;8(6):474-8. PMID: 23971685 

Microbial contamination of human milk purchased via the Internet. Keim SA, Hogan JS, McNamara KA, Gudimetla V, Dillon CE, Kwiek JJ, Geraghty SR. Pediatrics. 2013 Nov;132(5):e1227-35. PMID: 24144714 

Curriculum Vitae


Member, Center for Retrovirus Research