Retrovirology and Molecular Data Science Core


The goal of the Retrovirology and Molecular Data Science (RMDS) core is to help researchers perform optimized viral analysis experiments and analyze data from state-of-the-art genomics and database technologies, in support of HIV and related research. To inquire about any of the services listed below, send email to, and Core staff will route your request appropriately.


The Core resource allows researchers to gain access to specialized expertise that is not ordinarily expected in individual laboratories nor is often accessible through more common shared resources or services. In its most general form all aspects related to the use of any molecular assay that frequently requires non-trivial computational or mathematical expertise; although the services are not limited to the computational component. The core’s expertise includes the laboratory protocols needed to generate the data sets; sequences of DNA or RNA (or RNA subcomponents like polysomes) from host cells (including T Cells) or viruses, and includes both high dimension and also low dimensional assays. We can support consulting, training and technology development and also hands on data analysis or laboratory work when the effort is modest.

1. Short-term and longer term consulting - An email help-desk is staffed for users to submit questions, request meetings to discuss specific analysis strategies, and solicit advice on experiment design and novel research studies. For longer term projects that may not require sustained effort but can benefit from longer term lower level of effort team members can be assigned to assist in supervising your staff who can then implement the plan.

2. Hands on support for laboratory components, data processing and analysis - Staffing is provided for short term projects in the areas of microarray, high-throughput DNA sequencing, genomics, & proteomics data, and for combining data with public bioinformatics resources, including expertise specific to viral sequence analysis (described below), analysis of DNA and RNA sequences of host cells, microbiome, and other assays. We can also provide longer term more intensive support to move a manuscript or specific project past a milestone (like a manuscript acceptance) whenever handing it off is impractical (e.g., whenever the effort at one time depends on understanding of previous steps or decision choices) especially when multiple CFAR investigators are involved. This “hands on” component of the resource is the highest priority of the core.

3. Technology Development and Acquisition -- As new technologies of likely general use are identified this resource works with other center investigators or shared resources to acquire and deploy those techniques, including companion laboratory and computational components; examples include T Cell sequencing, ribosome or polysome profiling, and others. The Core steering committee meets frequently to discuss the potential impact of new technology acquisition. Researchers with ideas should send an email to the helpdesk ( with a description. Whenever new technologies are developed the group begins with a pilot to understand the feasibility and potential expense of providing the service to CFAR. The investigators who are requesting it and will benefit from it are asked to contribute to the pilot, by providing resources such as their own time, or physical materials (specimens) used in the pilot. Pilots are undertaken whenever the steering committee feels that it is worth the price compared to other activities that will be eliminated.

4. Development, maintenance, support and access to software: A key aspect of the Core is to provide access to computational tools (some web-based, others standalone) required to interpret sequence data, including phylogenic analysis, classification/clustering, processing RNA- or DNA- sequence data. A current list of software & some algorithms:


Core Investigators

James I. Mullins, PhD, Core Director

Robert Coombs, MD, PhD

Joshua Herbeck, PhD

Lisa Frenkel, MD

Benjamin S. Murrell, PhD

Core Staff

Kristen Tappan, Research Coordinator

Wenjie Deng, Consultant

Kenneth Polzin, Software Engineer

Sheila Styrchak, Research Associate


To receive services, users should send a brief email to that includes a few sentences describing, briefly, the nature of your questions and your contact information.  Core leaders will use this description to assign your request to an appropriate staff member who will contact you for follow-up.  Most often you will be contacted by a staff member the same day as the request.  Follow-up may include a one-on-one meeting, or possibly email or phone exchanges if that is adequate.