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An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge


Jonathan Heeney is Head of The Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics. Research focuses on cross species transmissions of viruses, and the co-evolution of viruses and their hosts including the evolution of immune mechanisms of disease protection in naturally infected but disease resistant species. Not only has this interest led to the discovery of a number of new viruses, but also genetic comparison of host and viral sequences from the same individual and sample have provided powerful genetic tools to solve some of nature's intriguing mysteries. Currently this laboratory applies these molecular technologies to address important questions concerning zoonotic infections of importance to both veterinary and human health.

Studies currently focus on understanding successful host immune responses to RNA viruses. Translationally this information is utilized for the rational design of novel vaccines for the prevention of diseases caused by notoriously complex viral pathogens.


Comparative Pathology of Viral Infections, Viral-host evolution (within generations, over millennia), Viral Zoonotics (why and how viruses jump species), the "Virome" in health and disease (immunodeficiencies), Successful host immune responses to RNA viruses (Vaccine development). We study Retroviruses and other RNA viruses which cause immune impairment and altered host responses.


Key publications: 

Heeney JL, Dalgleish AG, Weiss RA (2006), “Origins of HIV and the evolution of resistance to AIDS. Science”, Jul 28;313(5786):462 6:

Heeney JL (2006), “Zoonotic viral diseases and the frontier of early diagnosis, control and prevention”, J Intern Med ; 260:399–408

Heeney JL, Plotkin SA (2006), “Immunological correlates of protection from HIV infection and disease. Nat Immunol”, Dec;7(12):1281 4:

Verschoor EJ, Langenhuijzen S, Bontjer I, Fagrouch Z, Niphuis H, Warren KS, Eulenberger K, Heeney JL (2004), “The phylogeography of Orangutan foamy viruses supports ancient re-population theory of Sumatra. J Virol”, Nov;78(22):12712 6:

Comparative Pathology of Viral Infections
Head of the Lab of Viral Zoonotics
Professor Jonathan Luke Heeney
Takes PhD students
Available for consultancy


Person keywords: 
Viral pathogenicity
Molecular Biology
Developing World
Host-Pathogen Interaction
Vaccine development
Innate Immunity
Cross-species transmission
Non-human primates
Veterinary Science
Antibody response to HIV