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Cambridge Infectious Diseases

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Professor Chris Gilligan

Professor Chris Gilligan

Department of Plant Sciences

Epidemiological modelling to predict the spread of plant disease epidemics and to identify and optimise economically and ecologically sustainable strategies for disease management.


Head of Epidemiology and Modelling Group.

Plant Disease Modelling

Plant disease epidemics cause major economic shocks and reductions in food production. Epidemics can be especially harmful in developing countries where communities are often highly dependant on agriculture for subsistence and household income.

Current research is focused on establishing and testing a theoretical framework that identifies the mechanisms that control invasion, persistence, scaling and variability of epidemics within changing agricultural and natural landscapes. Applications range from large-scale pandemics (sudden oak death, citrus canker, African cassava mosaic virus), through pesticide resistance and genetical control to biocontrol in sustainable agricultural systems, and to the design of intervention strategies for exotic pathogen threats to the UK.

The research involves a synthesis of epidemiological theory, population and evolutionary genetics, landscape ecology and economic modelling, drawing upon methods from statistical physics and Bayesian statistical inference, supported by a complementary experimental programme involving laboratory microcosms and collation of extensive field and regional data-sets to test the models.


Departments and Institutes

Plant Sciences:


  • Epidemiology
  • Africa
  • Plant Pathogens


  • Mathematical modelling

Key Publications

Resource Allocation for Epidemic Control Across Multiple Sub-populations
CE Dangerfield, M Vyska, CA Gilligan. Bulletin of mathematical biology 81 (6), 1731-1759 2019

Applying optimal control theory to complex epidemiological models to inform real-world disease management EH Bussell, CE Dangerfield, CA Gilligan, NJ Cunniffe. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 374 (1776), 20180284 2 2019

Pathogenic modification of plants enhances long‐distance dispersal of nonpersistently transmitted viruses to new hosts. R Donnelly, NJ Cunniffe, JP Carr, CA Gilligan. Ecology, e02725 2019

Cassava planting material movement and grower behaviour in Zambia: implications for disease management. AM Szyniszewska, PC Chikoti, M Tembo, R Mulenga, CA Gilligan, .bioRxiv, 528851 2019

When does spatial diversification usefully maximise the durability of crop disease resistance? B Watkinson-Powell, CA Gilligan, NJ Cunniffe bioRxiv, 540013