Dao Thi Lab
We study hepatitis E virus-host interactions using stem cell-derived culture systems


CIID building

We are an international team of scientists who enjoy studying viruses. We use stem cell-derived culture systems to study hepatitis E virus-host interactions.

Our lab is a part of the Center of Integrative Infectious Disease Research (CIID) at the Heidelberg University Hospital. Our research is generously supported by the Chica and Heinz Schaller Foundation.

Uni klinikum
CHS foundation


Viet Loan
Dao Thi, PhD

Principal Investigator

x Loan

After completing her dual studies in Biotechnology at the Technische Universität Berlin (Germany) and Dongseo University in Busan (South Korea), Loan received her PhD from the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon (France) where she trained with Prof. François-Loïc Cosset. She then pursued her interest in virology during two complementary postdoctoral phases in the labs of Prof. Darius Moradpour at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne (Switzerland) and Prof. Charles M. Rice at the Rockefeller University in New York (USA).

In 2018, Loan returned to Germany to join the Virology department at Heidelberg University Hospital as a Chica and Heinz Schaller Junior Research Group Leader.

When not doing science, Loan likes to travel and hike.

Freistaedter, MSc

Lab manager

x Andrew

Andrew grew up in "The South" of the U.S., getting his Master's degree in North Carolina. As of 2017, he has been living in Germany, getting a feel for the European lifestyle.

Fu, MSc

PhD student

x Rebecca

Rebecca is from Canada and did her BSc in Biotechnology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She then did her MSc Infectious Diseases at University of Edinburgh in Scotland and worked during her Master thesis on Herpes Simplex Virus-1 viral entry. After the MSc, she worked as a research assistant at University of Edinburgh and did research on HIV-1 restriction factors.

Since February 2018, Rebecca joined the lab for her PhD studies on HEV host interactions.

Outside the lab she enjoys baking, reading, hiking and going to the gym.

Decker, MSc

PhD student

x Charlotte

Charlotte finished her Master’s degree in Molecular Biotechnology in Heidelberg. She is now working as a PhD student on hepatitis E virus trafficking.

In her leisure time she enjoys reading and swimming.

Mehnert, MSc

PhD student

x Ann-Kathrin

Ann-Kathrin obtained a BSc in Molecular Biotechnology and completed her MSc in Molecular Biosciences/Infectious Diseases at Heidelberg University. During her Master thesis, she worked on establishing genetic tools in the malaria parasite Plasmodium knowlesi.

In April 2020, she joined the group as a PhD student to investigate the innate immune response in HEV-infected hepatocytes, supported by TRR179.

Outside the lab, Ann-Kathrin enjoys cycling, reading and drinking good coffee with friends.

Chi, MSc

PhD student

x Huanting

Huanting received her BSc degree in Medicine from Soochow University in China. Then she completed her MSc program in Reproductive Sciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Huanting joined our lab in November 2020 for her PhD studies on the immunotherapy of chronic HEV infection, supported by the DZIF.

In her free time, Huanting likes hiking and playing badminton.

Hu, MSc

PhD student

x Jun-Gen

Jun-Gen received his Bachelor and Master degrees in biology from Sichuan University, China. Jun-Gen joined the lab in February 2021 for his PhD studying HEV protein trafficking in liver ECM-based PSC-HLCs culture systems. His stay is supported by the China Scholarship Council.

Outside the lab he enjoys cooking, biking, hiking and photography.


PhD student

x Sarah

After her BSc studies in Biology, Biochemistry, and Biotechnologies in Lyon, Sarah completed her first year of MSc in Infectiology at Université Paris Diderot and her second year MSc in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Université Paris Sorbonne. After her Master studies, she worked for almost 2 years at Fab’entech, a French biotech company.

Sarah joined the Dao Thi lab in September 2021 to study the innate immune response in HEV-infected intestinal cells.

She is passionate about mountains and outdoor sport, such as climbing, running, alpinism, and skiing. My state of mind is: "Where there is a will, there is a way. Passion is the fuel behind every successful career!"


PhD student

x Patrick

Patrick obtained his bachelor degree from the TU Darmstadt in microbiology. He obtained his master degree from the TU Darmstadt/MPI in Marburg and the LMU in Munich in bacteriology. For his PhD, he transitioned to virology and joined our lab in January 2023. Generously funded by SFB1129, he will investigate the trafficking of the HEV ORF3 protein in polarized cells.

Outside of the lab he enjoys reading, going to the gym and too many other hobbies.

Jasmin Alara

MSc student

x Alara

Alara was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. She did her Molecular Biotechnology Bachelor degree at University of Heidelberg and performed her bachelor's thesis in our lab. She continued with the Molecular Biotechnology Master’s degree at the University of Heidelberg. After doing several research internships at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research (MPIMF), the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) as well as the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), she came back to our lab for her master’s project.

When not doing science, she practices classical ballet, learns languages, travels, and spends time with her family.


With about 20 million infections each year, hepatitis E virus (HEV) represents a significant global health burden. Despite a growing awareness, the comprehension of this virus and its life cycle at the molecular level remains scarce. A contributing factor is the necessity to grow the virus in cell culture systems, which are usually based on aberrant cancer cells.

In order to overcome these limitations, we use embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cell (hESC/iPSC)-derived cell culture models, in particular stem-cell derived hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs; Figure 1).

Figure 1: Differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (embryonic or induced, hESC/iPSCs) to hepatocyte-like cells (HLCs; Wu & Dao Thi et al. 2018, Gastroenterology).

HEV is a positive-strand RNA, non-enveloped virus (nHEV), which gains a membranous host-derived envelope when budding from cells. In this form, the virus is called quasi-enveloped HEV (eHEV). While nHEV is ingested and shed into feces for fecal-oral transmission to another host, eHEV circulates in the blood of infected patients. The projects in our lab are geared towards studying the role of the quasi-envelope during different HEV life cycle steps, such as entry, innate immune sensing, assembly, secretion, in and from polarized cells (Figure 2). We further explore novel treatment options. Our studies are supported by a strong network of collaborations and state of the art technologies available on the outstanding campus environment of Heidelberg University.

Figure 2: HEV life cycle and transmission (adapted from Fu et al., 2019). (A) e/nHEV particles infect hepatocytes through their basolateral membrane. (B) Replication of the HEV genome (green) mediated by HEV nonstructural proteins occurs in a yet uncharacterized cellular compartment. (C) Subgenomic RNA is translated into ORF2 capsid protein (grey) and ORF3 protein (purple). The assembly site of infectious HEV particles is unknown. (D) Progeny HEV particles bud into multivesicular buddies mediated by the interaction of ORF3 with the ESCRT machinery of the host cell. (E) Basolaterally secreted eHEV particles are quasi-enveloped and circulate in this form in the bloodstream. The envelope protects eHEV particles from neutralizing anti-ORF2 Abs. (F) Apically secreted particles bud as eHEV particles and are then matured into nHEV particles. While exact modes of nHEV entry (A) are unknown, (G) eHEV particles enter through clathrin-dependent endocytosis. Cell-to-cell transmission or (H) transmission between neighboring apical domains has not been described yet.

Project examples for further details:

Our work is funded by generous grants from different sources

CHS foundation



Please check back later for future opportunities.


  • Maurer L, El Andari J, Rapti K, Spreyer L, Steinmann E, Grimm D, Dao Thi VL (2022). Induction of Hepatitis E virus anti-ORF3 antibodies from systemic administration of a muscle-specific adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector. Viruses 14(2), 266 Viruses
  • 2021
  • Zhang C, Freistaedter A, Schmelas C, Gunkel M, Dao Thi VL, Grimm D (2021). An RNA interference/adeno-associated virus vector-based combinatorial gene therapy approach against Hepatitis E virus. Hepatol Commun. (Online ahead of print) Pubmed
  • Bove G, Mehnert A-K, Dao Thi VL (2021). Chapter 7, iPSCs for modeling hepatotropic pathogen infections, Editor: Alexander Birbrair, In Advances in Stem Cell Biology, iPSCs for Studying Infectious Diseases, Academic Press, Volume 8, p. 149-213. Science Direct
  • Herbst K, Meurer M, Kirrmaier D, Anders S, Knop M, Dao Thi VL (2021). Colorimetric RT-LAMP and LAMP-sequencing for Detecting SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Clinical Samples. Bio Protoc. 11(6):e3964 Bio Protoc
  • 2020
  • Dao Thi VL, Herbst K, Boerner K, Meurer M, Kremer LPM, Kirrmaier D, Freistaedter A, Papagiannidis D, Galmozzi C, Stanifer ML, Boulant S, Klein S, Chlanda P, Khalid D, Miranda IB, Schnitzler P, Kräusslich H-G, Knop M, Anders S (2020). A colorimetric RT-LAMP assay and LAMP-sequencing for detecting SARS-CoV-2 RNA in clinical samples. Science Translational Medicine. 12:eabc7075 Sci Trans Med
  • Klein S, Müller TG, Khalid D, Sonntag-Buck V, Heuser A-M, Glass B, Meurer M, Morales I, Schillak A, Freistaedter A, Ambiel I, Winter SL, Zimmermann L, Naumoska T, Bubeck F, Kirrmaier D, Ullrich S, Barreto Miranda I, Anders S, Grimm D, Schnitzler P, Knop M, Kräusslich H-G, Dao Thi VL, Börner K, Chlanda P (2020). SARS-CoV-2 RNA Extraction Using Magnetic Beads for Rapid Large-Scale Testing by RT-qPCR and RT-LAMP. Viruses. 12:863 Viruses
  • Dao Thi VL, Wu X, Belote RL, Andreo U, Takacs CN, Fernandez JP, Vale-Silva LA, Prallet S, Decker CC, Fu RM, Qu B, Uryu K, Molina H, Saeed M, Steinmann E, Urban S, Singaraja RR, Schneider WM, Simon SM, Rice CM (2020). Stem cell-derived polarized hepatocytes. Nature communications. 11:1677 Nat Comm
  • 2019
  • Fu RM, Decker CC, Dao Thi VL (2019). Cell Culture Models for Hepatitis E Virus. Viruses. 11:608 Viruses
  • Wang J,Qu B,Zhang F,Zhang C, Deng W, Dao Thi VL, Xia Y (2019). Stem Cell-Derived Hepatocyte-Like Cells as Model for Viral Hepatitis Research. Stem Cells International. 2019:9605252 Stem Cells International
  • 2018
  • Dao Thi VL, Wu X, Rice CM (2018). Stem cell-derived culture models of hepatitis E virus infection. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. a031799 Pubmed
  • Wu X*, Dao Thi VL*, Liu P, Takacs CN, Xiang K, Andrus L, Gouttenoire J, Moradpour D, Rice CM (2018). Pan-Genotype Hepatitis E Virus Replication in Stem Cell-Derived Hepatocellular Systems. Gastroenterology. 154:663-674 Pubmed
  • Todt D, Moeller N, Praditya D, Kinast V, Friesland M, Engelmann M, Verhoye L, Sayed IM, Behrendt P, Dao Thi VL et al. (2018). The natural compound silvestrol inhibits hepatitis E virus (HEV) replication in vitro and in vivo. Antiviral Research. 157:151-158 Pubmed
  • Knegendorf L, Drave SA, Dao Thi VL, Debing Y, Brown RJP, Vondran FWR, Resner K, Friesland M, Khera T, Engelmann M et al. (2018). Hepatitis E virus replication and interferon responses in human placental cells. Hepatology Communications. 2:173-187 Pubmed
  • Wu X, Dao Thi VL, Huang Y, Billerbeck E, Saha D, Hoffmann H-H, Wang Y, Vale Silva LA, Sarbanes S, Sun T et al. (2018). Intrinsic immunity shapes viral resistance of stem cells. Cell. 172:423-438 Pubmed
  • Chung H, Calis JJA, Wu X, Sun T, Yu Y, Sarbanes SL, Dao Thi VL, Shilvock AR, Hoffmann HH, Rosenberg BR et al. (2018). Human ADAR1 prevents endogenous RNA from triggering translational shutdown. Cell. 172:811-824 Pubmed
  • Earlier papers
  • Takacs CN, Andreo U, Dao Thi VL, Wu X, Gleason CE, Itano MS, Spitz-Becker GS, Belote RL, Hedin BR, Scull MA et al. (2017). Differential regulation of lipoprotein and hepatitis C virus secretion by Rab1b. Cell Reports. 21:431-441 Pubmed
  • Dao Thi VL, Debing Y, Wu X, Rice CM, Neyts J, Moradpour D, Gouttenoire J (2016). Sofosbuvir inhibits hepatitis E virus replication in vitro and results in an additive effect when combined with ribavirin. Gastroenterology. 150:82-85 Pubmed
  • Hiroz P, Gouttenoire J, Dao Thi VL, Doerig C, Moradpour D, Sahli R, Telenti A (2013). Mise à jour sur l’hépatite E. Revue Médicale Suisse. 9:1594-1598 Journal website
  • Molina-Jimenez F, Benedicto I, Dao Thi VL Gondar V, Lavillette D, Marin JJ, Briz O, Moreno-Otero R, Aldabe R, Baumert TF, Cosset FL, Lopez-Cabrera M, Majano PL (2012). Matrigel-embedded 3D culture of Huh-7 cells as a hepatocyte-like polarized system to study hepatitis C virus cycle. Virology. 425:31-39 Pubmed


May 2023: Bouldering with the lab!
May 2023: Bouldering with the lab!
May 2023: Bouldering with the lab!
May 2023: Bouldering with the lab!
May 2023: Bouldering with the lab!

May 2023: At the European Congress of Virology in Gdansk, Poland. Big congrats to all presenters for winning travel grants!
May 2023: Ann-Kathrin presenting her work model on innate immune responses to HEV infections.
May 2023: Jun-Gen presenting his ORF2 project.
May 2023: Rebecca presenting her work on HEV cell entry.

March 2023: At the Annual Meeting of the Society of Virology in Ulm.
March 2023: Huanting presenting her work on HDV in the big auditorium. Congrats for winning a travel grant!
March 2023: Zoe presenting our HEV cell entry project.
March 2023: Jun-Gen presenting his work on the HEV capsid protein ORF2.

January 2023: Patrick joined the lab as a PhD student

Sept 2022: Congrats to Jun-Gen for being accepted at the EASL Basic Science School: Precision Cut Liver Slices and Liver Organoids

July 2022: Zoé joined the lab as an MSc student

July 2022: With Rebecca, Jun-Gen, and Ann-Kathrin at the HCVFlavi meeting. Eating eclairs with little viruses at the social event, yummy!
July 2022: Congrats to Ann-Kathrin for winning a best pitch talk award for her brilliant presentation at the HCVFlavi meeting.
June 2022: With Huanting and Sarah at the ILC in London
June 2022: Congrats to Sarah for winning a young investigator bursary and presenting her poster at the ILC in London!

May 2022: Valentina joined the lab as an MSc student

Jan 2022: Lars' paper is online

Oct 2021: Cindy's paper is online

Sept 2021: Sarah joined the lab as a PhD student

June 2021: Ann-Kathrin and Guglielmo's book chapter is online

Feb 2021: Jun-Gen joined the lab as a PhD student

Nov 2020: Huanting joined the lab as a PhD student

July 2020: Our contributions to overcome SARS CoV2 diagnostic shortages are online in Sci Trans Med and Viruses

April 2020: Ann-Kathrin joined the lab as a PhD student

April 2020: Our paper in Nature Communications is online

Feb 2020: Linh started her Master thesis in the lab

Jan 2020: Christmas dinner
Jan 2020: Christmas dinner

Nov 2019: Guglielmo started his internship in the lab

July 2019: Rebecca and Charlotte's review paper accepted at Viruses

June 2019: The lab participated in the BASF Firmencup race
June 2019: The lab participated in the BASF Firmencup race
June 2019: The lab participated in the BASF Firmencup race

May 2019: Lars started his MD thesis in the lab

Feb 2019: The lab attended the 1st Essen Hepatitis E meeting
Feb 2019: Cindy gave a talk at the 1st Essen Hepatitis E meeting

Feb 2019: First group photo

Feb 2019: Charlotte and Rebecca joined the lab as our first PhD students

Dec 2018: First Christmas dinner
Dec 2018: First Christmas dinner
Dec 2018: First Christmas dinner
Dec 2018: First Christmas dinner



Viet Loan Dao Thi, PhD
Junior Group Leader

Center for Integrative Infectious Disease Research (CIID)
University Hospital Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 344
D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany

+49 (0) 6221 563 56 43

VietLoan.DaoThi {at} med.uni-heidelberg.de