While not as headline-grabbing as the Zika virus, cytomegalovirus is dangerous — and more common. That’s what Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center virologist Elad Eliahoo is trying to stop.
Cytomegalovirus (known as CMV for those of us with less muscular tongues) is extremely frequent, and like other members of the human herpes virus family, it’s carried by the infected individual for life. Posing little threat to the average human, CMV is rarely detected or treated, but if a woman gets infected for the first time during her pregnancy, the risk becomes very real. CMV poses a threat to newborns and individuals with compromised immune systems. Eliahoo’s work is dedicated to understanding the inner-workings of cytomegalovirus, which could one day lead to better treatment.
After completing his doctorate at the Technion in Haifa, Eliahoo looked for a postdoctorate position in Puget Sound to match his wife Galit’s postdoctoral work at the University of Washington, where she researches vascular angiogenesis and regeneration. “Working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Hutch can be hard on an immigrant,” Eliahoo says. A big help to them is Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, which the Eliahoos have been active in since they arrived three years ago with their two young daughters. “Ezra Bessaroth has exceptionally strong ties to Israel, and that’s very important to me and my family,” Eliahoo says. With events for religious holidays and Israeli cultural holidays, the congregation allows the Eliahoos to celebrate and enjoy the lifestyle without compromises.
Initially working at UW too, Eliahoo moved to Fred Hutch after his lab closed down. He considers it a blessing. “The academic environment at the Hutch is excellent,” Eliahoo says. “The connection between teams and groups is amazing, which creates great cross-pollination. Connections prevent rivalries.” Eliahoo believes that the experience and exposure to high-level research at Fred Hutchinson will allow him to make a significant contribution to virology in Israel, where this kind of research is highly sought.
Eliahoo is also involved with BioAbroad, an organization that helps Israelis in the health and tech fields connect. BioAbroad will be a key factor in the Eliahoos’ planned return to Israel next year, where they will finally be near family again. “We are all very excited and looking forward to our journey back.”