Primary research interest

Viral pathogenesis and immunology

Additional role

Investigator, Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre

About me

  • Undergraduate medicine 1990 (Cambridge University, UK).
  • Clinical Medicine 1991-1993, specializing in HIV medicine, MRCP 1993.
  • DPhil 1997 (Oxford University, UK), viral immunology, studying immune responses to influenza virus infection of the central nervous system with Charles Bangham. MRC clinical training fellowship.
  • Post-doc 1997-1999 (St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, USA), CD8+ T cell responses to gamma-herpesvirus infection with Peter Doherty. MRC travelling fellowship.
  • Clinical Lecturer in Virology 1999-2001 (Cambridge University, UK). This involved training in clinical virology with Ulrich Desselberger, and starting a basic research group in the Division of Virology led by Tony Minson. This continued 2001-2006 as a MRC Clinician Scientist fellowship. In 2006 I qualified for the UK specialist register in clinical virology, in the area of Viral Immunology.
  • Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Fellowship 2006-2012 (Cambridge University, UK).
  • Senior Clinical Lecturer in Virology 2013.
  • Honorary consultant in Viral Immunology, Addenbrookes Hospital 2008-2013.
  • In 2013 I relocated to Brisbane as a Unit Head at the Sakzewski Virus Research Unit of the Royal Children's Hospital, part of SCMB via its status as the UQ Clinical Medical Virology Centre.
  • In 2015 my group relocated to become part of SCMB directly.

Research focus and collaborations

We study the entry, spread and control of herpesviruses, using murine infection models to identify new approaches to vaccination and immunotherapy.

This work is supported by NHMRC project grants, an ARC Future Fellowship, Children's Health Queensland, and a collaborative Belgian government grant (BELVIR).

Herpesviruses chronically infect essentially all mammals. Eight human herpesviruses are known. Most infections are acquired in childhood and are asymptomatic. However the high prevalence of infection - there are currently at least 30 billion ongoing herpesvirus infections worldwide - make even rare complications into large disease burdens. Thus Herpes simplex virus is the commonest infectious cause of blindness in the developed world, cytomegalovirus is the commonest congenital infectious disease, and Epstein-Barr virus causes the commonest childhood cancer of sub-Saharan Africa (Burkitt's lymphoma). Chronic infection is also a constant source of inflammation and immune activation. Thus herpesviruses predispose to many environment-dependent pathologies, such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The current options for treatment and prevention are very limited.

We have a particular interest in the olfactory neuroepithelium as a common host entry point for mammalian herpesviruses and how infection here can be controlled. We study also how infection spreads systemically. This involves close interaction between viral gene functions and the innate host defences provided by macrophages and dendritic cells.

As example infections optimally accessible to understanding, we use Murid Herpesvirus-4 (a gamma-herpesvirus related to the Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated Herpesvirus and to Epstein-Barr virus), Murine cytomegalovirus (a beta-herpesvirus and the standard in vivo model for Human cytomegalovirus) and Herpes simplex virus type 1 (an alpha-herpesvirus).

Current collaborators

  • Laurent Gillet (University of Liege)
  • Gabrielle Belz (WEHI)
  • Pedro Simas (University of Lisbon, Portugal)
  • Alex Redwood (Murdoch University)
  • Michael Mach (University of Erlangen)
  • Nick Davis-Poynter (UQ)

Group members

  • Cindy Tan, RO
  • Helen Farrell, RO
  • Clara Lawler, RA
  • Kimberley Bruce, RA
  • Orry Wyer, RA
  • Joseph Yunis, PhD student

Funded projects 

  • NHMRC project grant APP1060138 Preventing neuroepithelial infection (2014-2017)
  • NHMRC project grant APP1064015 Controlling gamma-herpesvirus dissemination (2014-2017)
  • ARC Future Fellowship FT130100138 Identifying mechanisms of herpesvirus entry into mammalian hosts (2014-2018) 
  • Children's Health Queensland (up to 2020) - Understanding how the immune system might better control chronic viral infections acquired in childhood
  • BELVIR collaborative grant (2013-2018) - understanding early events in viral infection

Teaching interests

No undergraduate teaching at UQ. Previously taught and examined clinical and fundamental virology at Cambridge University.

Achievements and awards

  • Editorial board, Journal of General Virology

Featured publications