The study of eukaryotic viruses has been a major research and training focus at the University of California, Irvine for more than 25 years.  In 1985, the late Edward K. Wagner, PhD, Professor of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, founded the Irvine Research Unit (IRU) in Eukaryotic Viruses to establish a formal research and training structure that went beyond departmental and school boundaries.  The IRU in Eukaryotic Viruses was an officially-recognized UCI research entity under the auspices of  the Division of Research and Graduate Studies.  It sponsored a seminar program in virology that consisted of invited outside speakers, alternating with research-in-progress seminars by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the participating laboratories. Under Professor Wagner’s strong leadership from 1985-1996, the IRU in Eukaryotic Viruses provided the research and training umbrella for nearly all virology research at UC Irvine and as such, was a nucleation point for research collaborations among virology faculty and between individual virology faculty members and other faculty at UC Irvine who shared common interests in experimental approaches related to gene expression and pathogenesis.

In 1997, Professor Luis Villarreal assumed the position of Director of the IRU in Eukaryotic Viruses.  Under Professor Villarreal’s direction, the focus of the IRU was broadened to include links to structural biology and proteomics, neurosciences, and evolutionary biology.  In 2000, the new direction and expanded research breadth of the IRU, coupled with the increased prominence of virology faculty members at UC Irvine, led to the creation of an Organized Research Unit called the Center for Virus Research (CVR).  This Organized Research Unit structure superseded that of the IRU and was officially recognized by the systemwide administration of the University of California.  Professor Villarreal served as Founding Director of the CVR, with Professor Bert Semler as the Associate Director, until the end of 2010, at which time Professor Semler assumed the role of Director, with Professor Michael Buchmeier currently serving as the Associate Director.

In the year 2000, in addition to being appointed Founding Director of the Center for Virus Research, Professor Luis Villarreal received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring for his work in developing science education and research programs to assist minority students at the high school and university level.